EMC/EMI compliance to be reviewed

June 30th, 2016, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: EngineerIT


The influx of low-quality products into the country and the risk this poses to consumers has compelled the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to review the process of issuing electromagnetic interference/compatibility (EMI/EMC) certificates of compliance (CoCs). The Consumer Protection Act (Act No. 68 of 2008) calls for consumers’ right to receive goods that comply with applicable standards set under the Standards Act.

Dr. Boni Mehlomakulu, SABS CEO with Rubben Mohlaloga, acting chairperson, ICASA at the launch of the MoU on 20 June 2016 at SABS.

ICASA councillor Nomvuyiso Batyi and the chief executive of SABS, Dr. Boni Mehlomakulu have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will see the two entities collaborate on ensuring that electronic equipment entering the South African market meets the required quality-performance standards.

As a result of this MoU, electronic equipment (non–telecommunication) that falls under the mandate of ICASA will be subjected to robust conformity assessment procedures to ensure that such products meet the quality requirements as stipulated in the South African National Standards.

The main purpose for issuing the CoCs for EMI/EMC is to ensure that radiated and conducted disturbances emanating from electronic devices are within regulated limits.

ICASA is mandated to regulate the EMI/EMC conformity under the radio frequency (RF) regulations and the list of regulated standards.

The SABS has been issuing the CoCs for both telecommunications and non-telecommunications equipment in terms of section 18 (10) (e) of the Radio Act, 1952 (Act 3 of 1952) and provisions of Radio Regulations, No. R2862, 1979. This task was delegated to the SABS by the then postmaster general.

The process for issuing CoCs was based on the evaluation of the EMI/EMC test reports obtained by the manufacturers, importers and suppliers from other recognised testing laboratories.

The SABS also conducted partial internal tests only if the equipment was not conforming to all technical parameters in a relevant standard(s) or if there were suspicions of non-conformance.

“The SABS stopped issuing CoCs in May 2015. “The old agreement was never reviewed when ICASA came into existence, so it is not clear if ICASA has authorised SABS to issue the CoCs, and roles and responsibilities between the two entities have not been explicitly stated,” said councillor and acting chairperson of ICASA, Rubben Mohlaloga.

Dr. Mehlomakulu said that post 1994 a suite of legislation was the result of the apportionment of mandates: the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa Act of 2000, the Standards Act of 2008, the Electronic Communications Act of 2005, the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications Act of 2008 and Consumer Protection Act of 2008 amongst others. In brief – a new legal framework was created.

“The SABS was itself once a regulator and it has a long history of supporting regulatory authorities. The 2008 amendment of the Standards Act took away all regulatory authority of the SABS. Regulatory authority gave the institution the power to make rules governing the quality assurance space and authority to carry out market surveillance through inspection and enforce compliance.  The new legal framework leaves the SABS with the mandate of standardisation and conformity assessment services. “

“As a state owned entity the SABS has more than a passing responsibility in ensuring the health and safety of consumers through its role in conformity assessment. The SABS must meet the expectations of the South African public when it comes to quality assurance”, said Dr. Mehlomakulu said.

The initial mandate based on the Radio Act and applicable process of assessing and endorsing test reports did not take into consideration SABS liability and exposure due to new legal framework – Consumer protection Act, limitations of SABS authority in the Standards Act.

It has become evident that the new legal framework demands resolute administration of the electromagnetic compliance and the applicable conformity assessment procedure. As a result the re-enforced procedure now includes a technical evaluation as well as independent sampling.

On 30 March 2016 a memorandum of understanding was completed between the SABS and ICASA. The MOU enables the SABS to support ICASA by issuing CoCs through a process established by the SABS. The process will entail; factory samples verifications, independent sampling, as well as witnessing of full testing at the foreign laboratories.  The SABS will also engage in surveillance audits which will encompass drawing of samples from the open market and subject them to full witness testing / testing. The frequency of surveillance sampling will be determined by the type or model ranges of products. This will ensure that the EMC/EMI regulated equipment comply with the relevant national standards.

There is no doubt that poor quality electronic equipment is making its way into the South African market and consumers. Non-compliance of the regulated EMC/EMI products to electromagnetic fields’ emissions limitations means that people are exposed to unacceptable levels of energy radiated by electronic communication devices as set out by International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection. It also means that electronic equipment that is highly disruptive to other equipment is not introduced into the market.

“The re-enforced process as supported by ICASA will allow for the SABS to adequately ensure full testing for electromagnetic compliance and conduct verification of products traceability to the manufacturing facilities, witness full testing that will expose the veracity of compliance claims. Online application will allow for easy application and fast processing of applications,”  said Dr. Mehlomakulu.

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