100 years of Product Safety Illustration
2020-03-02 short info

100 years of the VDE mark - 100 years of consumer protection worldwide

Every year, more than 100,000 products and systems are inspected. Many products do not pass the entry tests. Cheap import goods consistently draw negative attention.

Hendrik Schäfer

Electric toothbrushes and lawnmowers, small and large household appliances, multimedia products – 200,000 product types with millions of model variants bear the VDE mark worldwide, which is known in the entire electrical engineering and information technology industry and recognized by roughly two-thirds of consumers. The test mark, which represents the highest level of safety and is part of "Made in Germany", is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. The VDE, which launched the mark in 1920, is praising the fact that the safety level of electronic products and systems in Germany is the highest worldwide. At the same time, the technology organization warns that many cheap products in particular fail the tests – mainly import goods from outside the EU.  

The VDE Institute’s tests are tough. In professional circles, the VDE’s test seal is synonymous with the highest safety standards. "Many of the products that manufacturers submit to us do not pass our test engineers’ entry tests", reports Ansgar Hinz, CEO of the VDE and VDE Institute. These products must be improved accordingly before they are allowed to bear the VDE mark. Many manufacturers do not test the finished product at first; rather, they are already collaborating with VDE experts during the development phase in order to afterwards receive the VDE mark. "User safety and protection are our number one priority", continues Hinz.

Many cheap products exhibit flaws

A waffle iron for 10.00 euros, a drill for 20.00 euros; the "thrifty-is-nifty" mentality that has been observed in consumers for several years poses significant safety risks. In order to be able to produce at a low cost, many production plants have been outsourced. "However, a multitude of the goods produced there do not meet European safety standards. With great worry, we are observing a trend, in which mainly online orders from Asia are often failing to meet our norms and standards and can therefore cause malfunctions, short-circuits, and safety problems", describes Ansgar Hinz. Caution must be taken with products that do not have any test seals like the VDE triangle. The CE marking doesn’t change things either. A manufacturer simply uses it to declare that their product meets the requirements of European guidelines; "thrifty-is-nifty" needs to stop wherever it endangers users.

Wireless connections and tests

More than 1,000 employees currently work for the VDE Institute, which has evolved into a system supplier over the past several years, since nowadays an increasing number of products operate interconnected. The experts at the VDE Institute regularly check the interoperability, electromagnetic compatibility and functional safety of wireless communication connections, interfaces, and network connections. "This field will continue to exponentially grow over the coming years. This is because we are surrounded by electronics everywhere, which are integrated with and among each other to an increasingly greater extent. Reviewing these applications will become increasingly important in the future", explains VDE boss Ansgar Hinz. Furthermore, cyber security - whose significance is rapidly growing - is being tested in a smart-home laboratory that was recently set up a few years ago.

The VDE Institute’s "blacklist"

To protect the consumer, the VDE Institute intensively collaborates with European customs authorities and Interpol. Customs authorities ensure that a valid certificate is presented for every VDE test mark on a product when importing goods into the European Union. Within minutes, the certificates are verified online, and the counterfeit products are tracked down more quickly. The "blacklist" on the VDE Institute’s website is the most important instrument for raising awareness among consumers and informing them. Discovered counterfeit and unsafe products are published here . Together with an online list of VDE-tested products, it is the VDE’s most visited page. To counter cases of abuse, the VDE Institute carries out its own monitoring measures such as market surveillances, observations, and measurement controls. Furthermore, the production of more than 7,000 production plants worldwide is monitored on-site. The VDE Institute maintains inspection offices in 44 countries. 

The history of the VDE mark

In 1920, the VDE - founded in Berlin in 1893 - established a central testing center that is intended to check electrical products using existing VDE provisions. In 1934, nearly 4,000 products bore the VDE mark. The VDE mark accompanied the upswing in the field of consumer goods, industry, in hospitals, automobiles, trains, and power plants; as a result, the safety level of electrical products and systems in Germany has been the highest in the world for decades. For instance, the fact that the number of people who have died from electrical accidents has been significantly reduced from its former figure of over 400 to its current figure of less than 50 incidents per year is, among other things, thanks to the triangle with the three "VDE" letters. 

A major part of the VDE Institute's customers come from foreign European and Asian countries. Demand for the VDE safety mark is mainly increasing in China. The VDE is present with branches in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea via VDE Global Services GmbH. In Europe, the VDE has a presence in Bulgaria, Italy, France, Turkey, Portugal, and Spain. Poland and Russia are the most important customers in Eastern Europe. 

Current Information about the VDE Institute