A tiny trash can with an X through it, an exclamation point and a bunch of acronyms. You’ve probably noticed these little marks lurking on the back of your phone, laptop or charger and maybe you’ve even wondered why they’re there.
These tiny emblems are certification marks, used by government agencies and regulatory organizations to show that the product meets their safety standards. They’re also often used to show that a device can be sold in a certain country or region. You’ll find them all over the tech in your house; on phones, tablets, computers, chargers and most anything else with a plug.
While certification marks widespread now, they may soon disappear. In November 2014, President Obama signed the E-Label Act into law, which allows the Federal Communications Commission to hide its certification mark in a gadget’s operating system menu instead of physically printing it somewhere on the device.
Check out the infographic below to learn all about those strange little symbols and what they stand for.
Here’s an in-depth look at what all those symbols really mean:
Exclamation mark with circle around it
Carriers or wireless services from different countries sometimes operate on different frequency bands. When a device under CE authority has this icon (known as an “alert symbol”), it means that this device may attempt to operate on a band that is not legal in a particular European country.
CE stands for Conformité Européenne and is used to mark products that meet electromagnetic and electric safety standards in the European Union. Products must have this mark to be sold in nearly all European countries.
If your device has an FCC icon, it means that it is certified by the Federal Communications Commission. As a government agency, it regulates communications of all kinds (TV, cable, radio, etc.) across the United States.
Stands for Underwriters Laboratories, an organization that tests the safety of many electrical products and building materials. Items with this mark have been approved by UL. Fun fact: Underwriters Laboratories was instrumental in the widespread adoption of electricity in the US.
Circle with check mark
Called the Ctick, the mark is use by the Australian Communications Media Authority (ACMA) to indicate that the product meets electromagnetic compatibility standards and can be sold in Austrailia.
Trashcan with X
This symbol for Europe’s Waste Eletrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive indicates that the device should not be disposed in a trashbin due to its hazardous materials inside, and instead should be recycled appropriately.
This symbol denotes a device’s approval by the Norma Oficial Mexicana (or Official Mexican Standard) regulatory body.
Usually accompanied by the NOM mark, this mark means a product is certified by the Normalización y Certificación Electrónica (or Electronics Standardization and Certification). This governing body regulates electronics, telecommunications and IT safety in Mexico.
Stands for Voluntary Control Council for Interference by Information Technology Equipment. Used in Japan to show the product meets electromagnetic standards.
Usually placed next to the CE mark, this number lists the “notified body” which independently tested and certified the product. These companies come from many different countries, such as Germany, Denmark, Greece and Italy.