First draft of new machinery regulation published –
Are instructions in electronic form permitted?
The European Commission published a first draft of the new Machinery Regulation on April 21. Annex III of this draft includes a specific regulation for instructions in electronic form.
Detailed explanatory memorandum
In a 12-page "Explanatory Memorandum" presented with the actual draft, the Commission details important reasons and objectives for the revision.The following reasons were given for explicitly allowing instructions in electronic form:
- Generally high cost of producing paper documentation
- Costs with regard to the environment
- Administrative expense
What is the proposed provision in the draft?
The addition to 1.7.4 in Annex III reads as follows:
The instructions may be provided in a digital format. However, upon purchaser’s request at the time of the purchase of the machinery product, the instructions shall be provided in paper format free of charge.
When the instructions are provided in digital format, the manufacturer shall:
- mark on the machinery product and in an accompanying paper how to access the digital instructions;
- clearly describe which version of the instructions corresponds to the machinery product model;
- be presented in a format that makes it is possible for the end user to download the instructions and save them on an electronic device so that he or she can access them at all times, in particular during a breakdown of the machine. This requirement also applies to a machinery product where the instruction manual is embedded in the software of the machinery product.
What implications can be drawn from the draft?
- The draft was no longer designed as a directive, but in the form of a regulation. In this way, the European Union wants to ensure uniform implementation throughout Europe.
- The draft follows the structure of the Commission Decision 768/2008 and thus the New Legislative Framework (NLF). This means that it is aligned with the more recent European CE directives. The wording regarding the manufacturer's obligations has also been adopted:
7. Manufacturers shall ensure that the machinery products are accompanied by the instructions and information set out in section 1.7 of Annex III in a language which can be easily understood by end-users, as determined by the Member State concerned. Such instructions and information shall be clear, understandable, intelligible and legible.
What happens next? – Nothing is decided or certain yet
The draft prepared by the European Commission is now being discussed in various committees at the European level. The road through the European Parliament is still long. It is already clear that the issue of "instructions in electronic form" is hotly disputed. While the industry will struggle with the fact that, in addition to the electronic form, a free paper version must still be provided on request, this approach does not go far enough for consumer representatives, as the consumer must actively request the print version.
Thus, a lot can still change.
However, there are already indications of a trend-setting change by the European Commission on this issue.
Activities of tekom
In 2016, tekom drew the attention of the European Commission to this topic with the tekom guideline eDoc. In 2019, tekom initiated a position paper on this topic together with representatives of other associations. You can find the position paper published in September 2020 here.
Furthermore, not only did tekom participate in all stakeholder feedback rounds and public consultations of the European Commission on the revision of the Machinery Directive, but also, Dr. Klumpp (Deputy Managing Director of tekom Germany) had a direct conversation with the Policy Officer of the European Commission responsible for the revision of the Machinery Directive. A big thank you goes to the experts of the advisory boards for legislation and standards of both tekom and tekom Europe, who helped with all activities.
COM&TEC, Italy’s association for Technical Communication and corporate member of tekom Europe, invites international experts, members and non-members to a panel discussion about this turnaround and its possible implications.