Via Philips on LinkedIn HERE, NAILM and ALTA have announced that lighting manufacturers will no longer be required to use UL. Note, however, that Fine Lighting News has not been able to substantiate anything about NAILM or ALTA, so CAVEAT LECTOR!
Also, most lighting manufacturers are aware that they can use other laboratories: the problem is more that they don't know which ones are available to them.
Nevertheless, assuming that the facts are correct, the story is a useful lesson in how UL got into its virtual monopoly position, and why they can charge so much.
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This is what ALTA/PHILIPS are saying:
Beginning as early as June 2013 UL and the NRTL System will no longer be required for Certifying and Testing of Lighting Fixture Housings, Components, and Assemblies.
The National Association of Independent Lighting Manufacturers (NAILM) will adopt the American Lighting Testing Authority's (ALTA) Testing Standard (TS84) at their Annual Meeting and conference this year in April at Lightfair 2013.
NAILM announced that it will file a Federal Law Suit against OSHA and NRTL Agencies for Anti-Trust violations which has allowed <5 NRTL agencies to monopolize the testing and certification market which in turn has resulted in excessive fees. NAILM will add any Government Agency to the suit that refuses to accept manufacturers that use ALTA as their certifying Agency and TS84 as their testing standard.
UL spends several hundred thousand dollars a year lobbying to protect their financial position which has resulted in a monopolized trade with significant barriers to entry.
In April of 2008, UL met with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to promote their conversion from a Non-Profit to a For-Profit Status citing increased competition as the reason. Unfortunately for the lighting industry, increased profit just allows for higher fees, which has been the reality of the change. The move was approved with no opposition by the CPSC. In that same year, 2008, UL nearly doubled their lobbying expenses to nearly $400,000.
Using its previous Non-Profit status and lobbying at the Federal level, UL has influenced OSHA and the NRTL system to be for a select few. NRTL system requires high fees too excessive for small business and/or restrictions on applicants that might be able to afford the higher fees. For example, OSHA allows UL to let their listing manufacturers self-test, yet prevents any manufacturer from establishing their own NRTL. The Application fee alone represents several months overhead for a small testing lab.
NAILMs research has established that there are 100s of certified Electrical Testing Agencies (ie NETA) and 1000s of licensed and insured professional engineers, all capable of providing better safety for the industry while reducing costs by as much as 84%.
NAILM has developed a bullet comparison of UL/NRTL vs NAILM and the ALTA TS84 Standard.
The LIA, the relevant body in the UK, tell us this:
In the UK, the Lighting Industry Association have known about this and have been offering the cTUVus mark for several years now. Intertek, Semko etc all have their own US certification marks.
The UL brand has been strong for many years and it has taken some work to eductate the industry that there are perfectly viable alterntives. In effect, it is like clients demanding a BSI kitemark in the UK.
UL is the standards organisation and until the last few years have had a monopoly on testing and certification of products. What the LIA do find is that some clients still insist on having their products UL listed (it is similar to where some German customers insist on a VDE mark).