Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Directive: An Essential Guide

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The Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Directive covers electric and electronic equipment that may cause electromagnetic interference with other devices, or that might be disturbed by the electromagnetic field created by other devices.

Some types of electronic devices, such as quartz watches, do not fall under the scope of the directive because they are considered “inherently benign”, in the sense that they do not interfere and are not affected by other devices.

In this guide, we cover what EU importers and manufacturers must know about the directive, including harmonised standards, labelling, documentation, and lab testing requirements.


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What is the EMC Directive?

Electrical and electronic equipment might interfere with nearby devices. For example, large digital displays can interfere with radio signals in ports or industrial areas – which could be disastrous. That said, consumer electronics can also cause interference on a smaller scale – for example, in your living room.

As such, the EMC Directive regulates the electromagnetic compatibility of electric and electronic equipment and sets technical requirements to prevent interruption or other interferences among devices by:

a. Limiting the frequency range and other unnecessary radiations emitted by a device.

b. Setting the immunity specifications of the device, so that it’s not disturbed by external radio emissions as well.

Product Scope

The EMC Directive covers a wide range of equipment that might interfere with the operation of other electronic devices in the area. The scale could be on anything from a living room to a port facility.

The scope includes electrical and electronic products, installations, and systems.

Examples of covered products

Here we list several categories of products covered by the EMC Directive:

    • Alarm systems
    • Household appliances
    • Electrical tools
    • Lighting products

This guide provides examples of components or sub-assemblies, mobile installations, and fixed installations that are also covered by the directive.

Components or sub-assemblies

  • Computer plug-in cards
  • Programmable logic controllers
  • Electric motors (except induction motors without electronic circuits)
  • Computer disk drives
  • SD cards, USB memory sticks
  • Power supply units (as autonomous products, or sold separately for installation)
  • Electronic temperature controls

Mobile installations

According to the EMC Directive Guide, mobile LED video walls are an example of covered mobile installation.

Fixed installations

  • Air conditioning installations
  • Runway lighting installations
  • Computer networks
  • Cable TV networks

Exempted products

Article 2 of the directive provides a list of equipment that is not covered:

a. Equipment covered by the Radio Equipment Directive.

b. Aviation equipment meant exclusively for airborne use.

c. Radio equipment used by radio amateurs.

d. Inherently benign devices.

e. Custom-built evaluation kits for usage in professional research and development.

LED Screen

Inherently Benign Devices

The EMC Directive does not apply to devices that are deemed to be inherently benign in terms of electromagnetic interference. According to the definition under the EMC Directive Guide, a device is considered inherently benign if it has the following characteristics:

a. It is incapable of generating levels of electromagnetic emission that might cause other devices to not operate as intended, and

b. It operates without unacceptable degradation in the presence of electromagnetic disturbance in its intended environments.

Here are some examples of products that are excluded from the EMC Directive due to the fact that they are considered inherently benign:

You find more examples in section 1.4.4 of the EMC Directive Guide.

Even if a product is not listed in section 1.4.4, you can still determine if your product is inherently benign via the appropriate EMC testing and assessment. In this case, the EMC Directive Guide recommends that you document the assessment’s outcome as well as its conclusion.

EN Standards

The EMC Directive includes a list of harmonised standards that, if followed, help importers and manufacturers comply with the technical requirements set out by the directive. Below, we list several harmonised standards.

EN 61000 – Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC)

EN 61000 contains specifications for electromagnetic compatibility of electrical and electronic systems, including the following:

  • Emission standards
  • Immunity
  • Installation
  • Testing
  • Measurement techniques
EN 61547 – Equipment for general lighting purposes – EMC immunity requirements

EN 61547 lays out the electromagnetic immunity requirements for lighting equipment covered by IEC Technical Committee 34 meant for battery operation or connection to a low-voltage electricity supply, such as:

  • Lamps
  • Auxiliaries
  • Luminaries
EN 55014 – Electromagnetic compatibility – Requirements for household appliances, electric tools, and similar apparatus

EN 55014 is a two-part standard that covers the EMC requirements for household appliances, electric tools, and similar products.

The requirements of Part 1 of the standard cover emission specifications for appliances and electric tools that emit radiofrequency disturbances within the 9 kHz to 400 GHz range.

Part 2 of the standard covers immunity requirements for household appliances and apparatus (e.g. electric tools) with a maximum rated voltage of 250 V for the connection of single-phase apparatus to phase and neutral, and 480 V for other apparatus.

EN 50065 – Signalling on low-voltage electrical installations in the frequency range 3 kHz to 148.5 kHz, 95 kHz to 148.5 kHz, and 95 kHz to 148.5 kHz

EN 50065 is a multipart standard that applies to signalling on low-voltage electrical installations.

Part 1 covers general requirements, frequency bands, and electromagnetic disturbances in the 3 kHz to 148.5 kHz frequency range.

Part 2 covers the intended usages below in the following frequency ranges:

a. Residential, commercial, and industrial environments (95 kHz – 148.5 kHz).

b. By electricity suppliers and distributors (3 kHz – 95 kHz).

EN 55022 – Information technology equipment – Radio disturbance characteristics – Limits and methods of measurement

EN 55022 applies to information technology equipment (ITE) and specifies limits for the frequency range 9 kHz to 400 GHz for both Class A (marketed for commercial use) and Class B (marketed for home use) equipment.

The standard also provides procedures to measure the levels of spurious ITE-generated signals.

EN 55024 – Information technology equipment – Immunity characteristics – Limits and methods of measurement

EN 55024 defines the immunity test requirements for ITE regarding the following:

  • Continuous disturbances
  • Transient disturbances
  • Conducted disturbances
  • Radiated disturbances
  • Electrostatic discharges
EN 50130-4 – Electromagnetic compatibility – Product family standard: Immunity requirements for components of fire, intruder, hold up, CCTV, access control and social alarm systems

EN 50130-4 applies to components of alarm systems used in and around residential, commercial, and industrial environments. The scope includes the following:

  • Access control systems, for security applications
  • Alarm transmission systems
  • CCTV systems, for security applications
  • Fire detection and fire alarm systems
  • Hold-up alarm systems
  • Intruder alarm systems
  • Social alarm systems

This standard’s immunity tests only cover “the most critical disturbance phenomena”.

Note that it does not cover equipment that uses radio signalling, mains signalling, or connects to the public telephone system.

Essential Requirements

According to Article 6 of the directive, covered equipment must meet the essential requirements established in Annex I. We list those essential requirements below.

General requirements

The directive requires the design and manufacture of covered equipment to ensure that:

a. The generation of electromagnetic disturbance does not surpass the level that radio and telecommunications equipment operate at; and

b. The equipment is reasonably immune to expected electromagnetic disturbance during its use, permitting its operation without its intended use being degraded in an unacceptable manner.

Specific requirements for fixed installations

The directive specifies requirements for the installation and intended use of components, which include the following:

a. The application of good engineering practices when installing fixed installations; and

b. Following the information regarding how its components are meant to be used.

Conformity Assessment

According to Article 14 of the directive, manufacturers should demonstrate the compliance of their equipment with the essential requirements set in Annex I by adhering to either of the following conformity assessment procedures:

a. Module A – Internal production control (as established in Annex II); or

b. Modules B and C – EU-type examination, followed by a Conformity to type based on Module C (as established in Annex III).

Adherence to Module B necessitates the services of a notified body. Note that, according to our research, the directive does not specify if there are cases in which the second conformity assessment (Module B and C) is compulsory.

Internal production control (Module A)

Module A requires manufacturers to fulfil obligations regarding the following:

  • Electromagnetic compatibility assessment
  • Technical documentation
  • Manufacturing process
  • CE marking
  • EU Declaration of Conformity (DoC)

You can find the requirements in Annex II of the directive.

EU-type examination (Module B)

In this case, the manufacturer should apply for an EU-type examination with its chosen notified body. In turn, the notified body carries out the examination to confirm that the equipment meets the essential requirements.

The application should include:

  • Manufacturer’s, or authorised representative’s, name and address
  • Written declaration confirming the selection of one notified body
  • Technical documentation
  • General description of the equipment
  • Concept design and manufacturing drawings
  • Descriptions and explanations for those designs and drawings
  • List of harmonised standards applied
  • Results of design calculations, examinations
  • Test reports

The notified body then does the following:

You can find the full list of requirements in Part A of Annex III.

Conformity to type based on internal production control (Module C)

Manufacturers must fulfil obligations regarding:

  • The manufacturing process (including monitoring
  • CE marking
  • EU DoC

The requirements are detailed in Part B of Annex III.


The EMC Directive requires importers and manufacturers to provide a set of documentation before placing their devices on the EU market.

Declaration of Conformity (DoC)

The Declaration of Conformity (DoC) is a self-issued document that demonstrates compliance with one or more CE directives and regulations. Importers and manufacturers of electric and electronic equipment must issue and make available the DoC to relevant authorities.

Annex IV of the directive provides the format of the DoC that companies must follow. The following information should be included:

a. Product model or product batch, type, or serial number.

b. Manufacturer name and address.

c. Statement declaring that the manufacturer issued the DoC under its responsibility.

d. Product identification permitting its traceability; this might include a clear colour image.

e. A statement declaring that the identified product conforms to the EMC Directive and other relevant legislation.

f. List of applicable harmonised standards and their dates (or references to other technical specifications and their dates).

g. Where applicable, information concerning the notified body (name, number), its intervention, and the certificate.

h. Place and date where the DoC was issued.

i. Signature, name, and function.

User Instructions

The EMC Directive mandates the provision of user instructions with covered electric and electronic equipment. It requires that you ensure that the user instructions contain the information necessary for the usage of the apparatus in accordance with its intended purpose.

You should also ensure that, prior to the equipment’s placement on the EU market, the user instructions are:

a. Written in a language easily understood by consumers and end-users.

b. Clear, and coherent.

Technical Documentation

The EMC Directive mandates that importers and manufacturers of electrical and electronic establish the technical documentation and retain it for 10 years after the apparatus has been placed on the market.

Per Annex II and III, the technical documentation must specify the relevant technical requirements and contain information such as:

a. Product description.

b. Concept designs, manufacturing drawings, and schemes of components, sub-assemblies, and circuits.

c. Descriptions and explanations that aid the understanding of those drawings.

d. List of applied standards and directives.

e. The outcome of design calculations and assessments implemented.

f. Test reports and certificates.

Test Report

Test reports determine the compliance of electric or electronic equipment or products with harmonised standards or technical requirements. As such, importers and manufacturers must ensure that they subject their equipment to relevant testing, and receive a subsequent test report as evidence of compliance.

Modules A and B mention “test reports” as part of the technical documentation requirements.

Labelling Requirements

The directive requires importers and manufacturers to ensure that they affix the relevant labelling (e.g., CE marking, traceability information) on the product and its packaging.

CE Marking

CE Mark

The EMC Directive is one of the CE directives, and as such, manufacturers must affix the CE marking to their product, which indicates the equipment’s conformity to the requirements of the directive.

The CE marking should be:

a. Affixed in a visible and clear manner to the apparatus or its data plate (or, when the nature of the apparatus prevents this, to the packaging and its accompanying documents); and

b. Affixed prior to the equipment’s placement on the EU market.

Product Traceability

The directive requires the identification and traceability of the equipment. Importers must affix a traceability label on the product, or where conditions do not permit such, on its packaging and accompanying documents.

Importers and manufacturers must facilitate traceability by providing information such as:

  • Type, batch or serial number or similar information
  • Name, registered trade name, or registered trademark
  • Postal address
  • Contact information

Lab Testing

Importers and manufacturers must make sure that their products and equipment comply with requirements in the EMC Directive and relevant standards. In practice, this means that it is generally necessary for them to have their products lab tested to prove compliance and obtain a valid test report.

Test methods

Here, we list some examples of test methods that are relevant for complying with the requirements of the directive:

a. Test methods for electrically powered hold-open devices for swing doors.

b. Test methods for maritime navigation and radiocommunication equipment and systems.

c. Test methods for adjustable speed electrical power drive systems.

d. Methods for testing the electromagnetic compatibility of agricultural and forestry machinery.

Lab test companies

Here are a few companies that offer EMC testing:

Compliance Risks

Far from all electronic products are designed to comply with the European EMC directive. In fact, electronic devices manufactured for other countries and markets may be non-compliant and therefore prohibited from being imported and sold in the EU.

Ensuring EMC directive compliance requires that the product is designed with its technical criteria in mind. For example, this may require that certain components are properly shielded. While the methods differ depending on the product, it’s important never to assume that manufacturers outside the EU understand the technical requirements outlined in the EMC Directive.

Instead, it’s necessary to “design for EMC compliance” at an early stage of a product’s development cycle. Keep in mind that EMC testing can be costly, often counted in the thousands of dollars. Hence, you rather avoid a situation in which you need to adjust the product design in iterations and send the device back for repeated EMC testing.

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    Sources: Our articles are written in part based on publicly available information, and our own practical experience relating to product compliance. These are some of the primary sources we use:

    • ec.europa.eu
    • echa.europa.eu
    • ecfr.gov
    • cpsc.gov
    • ftc.gov
    • fcc.gov
  • 1 Responses to “Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Directive: An Essential Guide

    1. Michael Coughlan at 5:10 pm

      Think human and keep in mind, (E.g. IT, ICT & EMC), when reading the writings of Norbert Wiener on cybernetics, opportunities and risks.

      Note the EU H&S framework directive, 89/391/EEC (E.g. Articles 9-1a & 15 Risk groups Cyber risk likelihood for the human), IT as connects, links other EU directives (E.g. Data protection 95/46/EC). Enterprise activities (E.g. Electronics), compliance requirements ( E.g. 2004/40/EC – 2013/35/EU) CE marking their products, and product liability obligations (E.g. 85/374/EEC) as applies to many products (Safety which the public at large are entitled to expect).

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