In an increasingly competitive global market, graphic design can become a tool for real trade war tactics involving consumers of entire continents. One example, and perhaps the best known, is the China Exportation mark, created by some Chinese manufacturers to deceive European citizens into believing they have purchased a product that meets European standards. In this article, I will show you the crucial difference between the two different marks and explain how to recognise them on the products you use or want to buy.
Many people, probably everyone in Europe, are familiar with the CE mark. The European mark of conformity is mandatory for products marketed in the European Union and guarantees compliance with the standards set by the EU. This means that the number of analyses, calculations and tests carried out for any machine marked with CE are proportionate to their risk of causing harm. These procedures are also mandatory for products made outside the EU, for which the importer must also get the certification of consumer safety.
Not everything manufactured outside the European Union complies with EU standards. To allow non-compliant products to continue to be sold in Europe, some Chinese companies have developed the China Export trademark. The graphic mark is virtually identical to that of European conformity, with a minimal difference in the spacing between the letters.
How to distinguish the European conformity mark from the China Exportation mark?
This similarity between the two marks is certainly not coincidental. The mark of “China Exportation” differs from that of “European Conformity” by a shorter distance between the two letters. Recognising them can be difficult, also because of the symbol size, which is sometimes less than a centimetre big.
In the original CE brand, the circumferences that generate the C define the distance between the letters and both derive from two circles that intersect at a distance equal to the thickness of the letter. In the China Export mark, on the other hand, there is practically no distance between C and E.
This slight difference has caused many difficulties for European trade, the confusion has caused several problems for consumers. Some European companies have even reported the China Exportation mark instead of the European conformity mark.
Today, anyone using marks similar to the CE mark or limiting its visibility and legibility is subject to an administrative fine ranging from €1,000.00 to €6,000.00. However, despite the law and many controls, the market for counterfeit products amounts to around €128 billion per year across Europe (EUIPO, 2020).