The Difference Between CE & UL Certification

By Steven Melendez

You'll often see the letters CE, UL and FCC on electronics. They each indicate the device complies with different sets of standards.

You'll find the letters CE, UL and FCC on many household items, especially electronics. The letters CE means that the product meets the European Union's safety standards and other requirements for sale. UL means the product meets the standards of Underwriters Laboratories, a private safety testing organization, and FCC means the product meets the standards of the Federal Communications Commission.

The CE Label

When you see the letters CE on products like electronics and other household appliances, boats or toys, those products meet the standards to be sold in the European Union and a handful of other European countries that subscribe to the same standards. It represents the French phrase "Conformite Europeenne," which indicates conformity with European law.

The CE label is legally required to appear on many types of products sold in those European countries to show that they meet European health, safety and environmental standards.

This certification is generally not recognized in the United States, which has its own certification standards of product safety.

The UL Seal

When you see the UL seal on an appliance, piece of computer hardware or other product, you know that the product has been certified to meet the standards of Underwriters Laboratories, a private safety organization funded by manufacturers, insurers and other organizations.

UL traces its history back to 1894, when it was founded as the Underwriters' Electric Bureau, created as an arm of the National Board of Fire Underwriters to assess the safety of products like heaters and circuit breakers.

UL has since certified everything from record players to computers to solar panels. The list grows as new products come on to the market. While the organization's approval isn't a legal requirement, many regulators in the United States require that electrical products be tested by a nationally recognized testing laboratory before they're used, and UL is the oldest and probably best known.

For fire safety, many home insurance policies require that electrical products installed in the home be UL certified.

The FCC Seal

Another symbol you're likely to see on computers, cell phones and other electronic devices is the seal of the Federal Communications Commission, which is the United States agency that regulates telecommunications.

Electronics sold in the U.S. must be tested by an FCC-approved lab to make sure they won't interfere with radio, TV and other uses of the public airwaves.