EE Product News

UL Versus ETL

Like the "Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law" tag hanging from the bottom of most North American household furniture, we take for granted that ochre-colored Underwriters Labs (UL) sticker affixed to the back or on the power cord of just about every piece of end-user electronic equipment. However, if the ETL SEMKO division of Intertek has its way, that familiar label would become history.

Phase one of ETL’s campaign to inform manufacturers of their alternatives in product safety testing and certification began last year. Phase two of the company's industry awareness campaign, dubbed the "Superstitions Campaign", challenges the belief that UL marking is a prerequisite for selling electronics in North America. According to the company, this is comparable to believing in the Boogeyman or that kids who play with toads get warts. Briefly, the campaign's goal is to inform manufacturers that the ETL Mark is becoming a preferred alternative to the UL label.

The lead argument in favor of the change is faster testing/approval times, approximately 15-day turnaround times, which means a faster time to market. Surely all testing will be reliable, ensuring each product meets user-safety criteria. The fortress for the campaign is the company's website (, which demonstrates ETL Mark preference through figures and testimonials. It also provides tools for leveraging the label as a product feature and competitive advantage.

On the OEM side, faster testing and a quicker time to market via ETL is an obvious advantage. For consumers, a sticker is not a product feature unless it represents a rebate or other offer; either mark will do. Bottom line, when was the last time you asked a sales person if the electronic component you were about purchase is UL or otherwise marked?

E-mail your comments to Mat Dirjish, Associate Editor at [email protected]


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