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Interesting Facts about TÜV Rheinland

Interesting Facts about TÜV Rheinland

Interesting Facts about TÜV Rheinland

Is TÜV Rheinland a state authority? Why are there several “TÜV” organizations at all? Are tests that you pay for independent? There are some common misconceptions about TÜV Rheinland’s work. Here are the answers to the most important questions:

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First: TÜV Rheinland is not a public testing authority—rather, it is a company that offers testing and certification services.

TÜV Rheinland has never been a public authority (and neither have any of the other TÜV companies). For more than 150 years, the TÜV system has operated in addition to the responsibilities of commercial companies and in addition to state inspections as a privately operated inspection and testing body for technical safety and quality. The mission of TÜV Rheinland is to make technical equipment and products safer. Inspections and certifications from TÜV Rheinland provide consumers with additional guidance in the marketplace. In addition, a technical monitoring association was established in 1872. TÜV Rheinland Berlin Brandenburg Pfalz e.V. has no intention of realizing a profit and is the sole shareholder of TÜV Rheinland AG, which conducts the operational activities.

TÜV Rheinland has no authorization to perform market surveillance or supervision, does not have police powers, for example, and also operates in deregulated markets. The sole exception to this is driver’s license tests. Nor does TÜV Rheinland act as a public approval authority for construction work, power plants or airports, but instead performs, for example, the tests and acceptance tests required to obtain official permits or approvals on behalf of the building owner or constructor. This also applies to inspections of the operation of power plants or industrial plants. Here again, TÜV Rheinland works on behalf of the client companies. Responsibility for operation remains with the relevant company, and the supervisory role is performed by the relevant public authority, for example, the responsible regional board or ministry.

Second: TÜV Rheinland is an association, but it is also a profit-oriented commercial enterprise.

The association, the stock corporation and the foundation are all brought together under the umbrella of the TÜV Rheinland Group. The nucleus of the global testing company is an association, the present-day TÜV Rheinland Berlin Brandenburg Pfalz e.V. As a nonprofit organization, it has been and is the holder of virtually all governmental commissions. It has spun off essential operational testing activities to subsidiaries, which it groups through TÜV Rheinland Aktiengesellschaft, founded in 1993. The association is the sole shareholder of this company. Together with TÜV Rheinland Foundation—which is committed to social issues—the association and the stock corporation form the TÜV Rheinland Group or, simply expressed, TÜV Rheinland.

Pursuant to its charter, TÜV Rheinland Berlin Brandenburg Pfalz e.V. is independent. The purpose of the association is to engage in impartial consulting, assessment, testing and monitoring in safety and transportation technology, energy technology and environmental protection. The testing activity is conducted by TÜV Rheinland AG and its companies. Because the association has no intention to realize a profit as a shareholder, there is no pressure of shareholder value thinking. The subsidiaries’ profits is used to safeguard and further develop the purpose of the association. This form of organization is a vital requisite for the independent testing work of the TÜV Rheinland experts.

TÜV Rheinland Berlin Brandenburg Pfalz e.V. is largely supported by industrial and commercial enterprises. The association is the sole shareholder of TÜV Rheinland AG, which runs the testing business of the Group. The members of the association, which includes small and medium-sized enterprises as well as large corporations, support the fundamental principles of improving the technical safety of equipment and products through an independent additional inspection, such as that which the testing companies of TÜV Rheinland perform. The members of the association have no influence whatsoever over the day-to-day operations of the testing business, nor do they have any financial interests or share any profits or other immediate financial benefits as a result of their membership.

Third: There is no single organization called “TÜV”—instead, there are a number of different testing organizations with this name.

Various companies have the same letters “TÜV” as part of their name, but they are in competition with each other and also with other testing companies. The large TÜV organizations all work internationally. TÜV Rheinland is operational worldwide, with a revenue share of almost 50 percent and around 12,550 employees outside of Germany. In addition, there are also the smaller TÜV organizations, some of which operate at a regional level. All of these companies operate in similar fields and, in many cases, according to the same national or international legal requirements and standards.

Fourth: Despite its name, TÜV Rheinland does not restrict its operations to the Rhineland region of Germany, but works across Germany as a whole and worldwide.

TÜV Rheinland was founded in Elberfeld in the Rhineland, but now operates worldwide. There are a number of companies that (are permitted to) carry the name TÜV. They have all agreed to adopt a regional name to allow them to be distinguished. Here, TÜV Rheinland carries the name of the region in which the company was founded 150 years ago. The larger companies like TÜV Rheinland are not limited to a local region in their work, but have branches, laboratories and test centers throughout Germany and worldwide. TÜV Rheinland has sites throughout Germany, with the largest sites in the cities of Cologne, Berlin and Nuremberg. Around 12,550 employees at TÜV Rheinland work outside Germany, and the company presently has subsidiaries around the globe.

Fifth: TÜV Rheinland performs its testing services when mandated to do so by companies, public authorities or private individuals.

The system of technical supervision and monitoring with TÜV Rheinland and other testing companies was created in order to avoid a publicly funded and state-run inspection and testing system for technical equipment and products. This meant that the costs of the tests were also privatized: TÜV Rheinland performs testing on behalf and account of its customers—i.e. client companies, official authorities, organizations or individuals. The way motorists handle their general vehicle inspections is thus the standard mode of operation for work done by TÜV Rheinland: Testing services are paid for by the customer, and not by the state. This relieves pressures on the public purse in very many areas, for example, in relation to the inspection of the technical safety of industrial systems, vehicles or buildings. The underlying principle is that the payment for the testing services is entirely independent of the outcome of the tests.

Sixth: TÜV Rheinland tests because it is required by law or according to its own test standards.

In which cases does TÜV Rheinland perform testing? TÜV Rheinland performs its testing services when instructed to do so by other companies, private individuals or public authorities and organizations. There are four different scenarios in which testing activities are performed by TÜV Rheinland.

  1. In cases where testing is a mandatory legal requirement, TÜV Rheinland performs the testing in accordance with the rules set out in law. The work is monitored by public supervisory authorities. This type of tests includes, for example, driver’s license tests, general inspections for vehicles and the testing of technical equipment before it is placed in service for the first time.
  2. In cases where the testing is non-mandatory, i.e. it is performed on a voluntary basis by the companies involved, TÜV Rheinland performs the testing in accordance with the rules set out in law and the nationally and internationally applicable standards. Here again, the work carried out by TÜV Rheinland is monitored by the relevant public authorities. Work performed in this way includes the certification of products for award of the GS product safety mark, assessments of management systems for quality management certification (ISO 9001) or environmental management certification (ISO 14001), as well as the annual inspection and testing of elevators and escalators.
  3. TÜV Rheinland performs tests in accordance with the company’s own internal standards and test criteria in cases where there are no legal rulings or recognized standards. Here, TÜV Rheinland is not directly monitored by public authorities, but instead by the market in particular (is the test good and beneficial?). Why does TÜV Rheinland also perform testing according to internal standards? Well-defined safety and quality specifications are by no means available for all products or technical equipment and services. Furthermore, in the face of regular technical innovation it often takes many years before product standards and test specifications can be developed. TÜV Rheinland gets involved in this type of case as and when there is a demand in the industry. Some standards are also developed together with the company. This type of voluntary testing in accordance with internal standards includes, for example, the testing and acceptance of solar power plants, inspections of service quality or the quality of consulting in companies. In these cases there are no uniform national or international standards or statutory provisions.
  4. TÜV Rheinland also tests and examines specific individual technical issues on behalf of companies or public authorities. In the process, TÜV Rheinland handles vast numbers of testing orders. Examples include damage assessments after accidents, tests during the development of new products or tests during large-scale construction projects to enable the building owner or contractor to obtain the necessary official approvals or permits.

Important: Even if tests are passed, a test mark or test sticker is not always awarded. The award of the test mark is subject to strict rules. Often tests end with the creation of an inspection report without awarding a test mark for it.

Seventh: TÜV Rheinland operates cost-effectively and on a technically independent basis.

TÜV Rheinland operates independently, even though the company is paid for its testing services. TÜV Rheinland is subject to many checks that are carried out by the public authorities in all of the countries in which the group operates, as well as by the organizations according to whose rules the testing is performed. This includes state supervision at the local, regional, national and international level. The aim here is to monitor not only the group’s technical expertise and skillset, but also its impartiality. TÜV Rheinland needs state accreditation in many areas and regular vetting in order to be permitted to perform testing. Employees, measuring instruments and test laboratories are also regularly checked by public bodies to ensure that TÜV Rheinland employs appropriate working procedures. Again, this is how it should be. After all, these things all help to ensure additional competence, professionalism, independence and incorruptibility, which in turn form the basis on which the trust of the industry, consumers, politicians and general public in the work carried out by the inspectors is founded. TÜV Rheinland would lose its testing license if the company were found to be violating recognized rules and standards.

Eighth: TÜV Rheinland performs testing on behalf of individuals and companies, but does so independently and in accordance with the relevant defined rules.

The testing offered by TÜV Rheinland is not financed from public funds or tax money. Instead, these services are purchased by customers—companies or private individuals—as a testing service from TÜV Rheinland, as is the case of general vehicle inspections, for example. In the process, the customers are not purchasing a positive test outcome or test mark, but the test itself. Whether the test will be passed is open. For example, about 20% of cars fail their general inspection at TÜV Rheinland, or more than half of all products tested in order to obtain the GS safety mark. There are also significant failure rates in the testing of management systems or in tests in the academy and for driver’s licenses.

These and other examples highlight the independence and impartiality of TÜV Rheinland, but they also underline the value placed by the client companies on safety or quality. After all, in many cases the client will improve the product if the test outcome is negative, eliminating defects in the process. The companies who place testing work with TÜV Rheinland usually invest in additional testing on a voluntary basis. For consumers, this therefore means that any product that displays a test mark from TÜV Rheinland is better than it would be without the test mark. TÜV Rheinland performs hundreds of thousands of product tests every year, and subsequent irregularities in the market are only very rarely observed after any of these product inspections. However, in cases where this does happen, TÜV Rheinland adopts a self-critical and unprejudiced response.

Ninth: There is only one TÜV Rheinland test mark and one test mark for the subsidiary brand LGA.

Time and again the sheer number of different test marks has been criticized, as it tends to confuse consumers rather than offer them guidance. TÜV Rheinland already responded to this in 2012, and the company only awards a single TÜV mark (compared to the previous number of around 130). In addition to this, one test mark is also awarded by subsidiary LGA for certain products, e.g. toys. However, TÜV Rheinland is accredited (authorized) to award various other test marks that have not been developed internally by the company and that are, in some cases, governed by statute. In Germany, this includes for example the GS mark for approved safety (this is not a test mark of TÜV Rheinland, but of the Federal Republic of Germany). Criticisms of the proliferation of test marks should not focus solely on the testing companies, but also on the large number of associations that develop test marks and on the political processes involved. Incidentally, the CE mark is not a test mark or seal of quality. CE stands for Communauté Européenne, French for European Community, and was introduced based on EU law. With this mark, the manufacturer himself declares to the relevant authorities that his product complies with the European rules – no more and no less. After all, it is the responsibility of the product manufacturers to check that their products comply with the European directives and to keep records of these tests on document.

Tenth: A test mark from TÜV Rheinland does not guarantee 100% safety to consumers.

Test marks from TÜV Rheinland offer additional safety, but cannot guarantee total, 100% safety. There are several obvious reasons for this. The most important one is that the manufacturer or seller of a product is responsible for its quality (after all, it is the one earning money from it). It is also true that TÜV Rheinland naturally cannot inspect every manufactured product individually, even if it bears a test mark from TÜV Rheinland. The inspection must be made through sampling. In the case of cars and other technical equipment, the test inspection sticker can only confirm the successful testing of a sample that applies on the day of testing. Finally, a test mark also cannot cover all of the properties of a product, but only individual aspects, such as safety. This (naturally) says little about quality or durability. Therefore, this is also noted on the test mark as a key term.

A five-point principle applies to the quality of products:

  1. The manufacturer is initially responsible for its product.
  2. The retail company is then responsible, since it is the party that sells the product.
  3. The (local) authorities responsible for market supervision check the market and are responsible for ensuring that only products that are permitted to be sold are actually sold.
  4. The test mark from a testing company can offer additional safety. But it needs to be made clear which properties and aspects have been inspected. Comparison tests can also offer guidance here.
  5. The purchaser/consumer is also responsible, since he should always be aware of what he is purchasing, not choose on price alone and get good advice.

Every consumer should follow five golden rules when purchasing a product:

  1. Think about your requirements for a product, and decide what is important to you.
  2. Ideally, purchase products from manufacturers who have a good reputation (to lose).
  3. Purchase from known sources to whom you can subsequently direct complaints, and seek advice from them prior to purchasing.
  4. Look out for recognized test marks and test results.
  5. Always complain if a product is defective, and—in the event of particularly serious safety defects—involve the local market supervision authorities (local council), or in the event of problems relating to test marks the relevant testing organization (e.g. TÜV Rheinland).

Last update: April 2023