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The European Commission on Monday announced plans to set default volume settings on personal media players and mobile phones with music players. The recommendations by the EC will be compulsory for makers of actual equipment, still, the end-user will be able to set the volume according to the actual needs.

“These standards make small technical changes to players so that by default, normal use is safe. If consumers chose to override the default settings they can, but there will be clear warnings so they know the risks they are taking,” explained consumer affairs commissioner Meglena Kuneva.

Existing EU standards currently prescribe no maximum sound limit nor require any specific labelling in respect of volume levels, but require that a statement be put in the instruction manual to warn of the adverse effects of exposure to excessive sound level. The mandate, proposed by the European Commission with 27 Member States, covers all personal music players and mobile phones with a music playing function. It provides that:

Safe exposure levels shall be the "default" settings on products. The mandate does not prescribe specific technical solutions in order not to stifle the capacity of industry to innovate. Instead, it requires manufactures to provide that the default settings for normal usage meet safety requirements. The mandate makes it clear that safe use depends on exposure time and volume levels. At 80dB(A), exposure should be limited to 40 hours/week. At 89dB(A) exposure should not exceed 5 hours/week. The safe exposure levels defined above shall be the default settings on products. Higher exposure levels can be permitted, provided that they have been intentionally selected by the user and the product incorporates a reliable means to inform the user of the risks.

The mandate is not prescriptive in terms of how this is done. Industry solutions could include for example – labels or digital information on the screen.

EU standards are drawn up by CENELEC (European standard setting body) in a process, involving scientists, industry and consumer groups as well as other stake holders, it can take up to 24 months. EU standards are not mandatory, however if the new standard is approved by the European Commission and published in the Official Journal of the European Union, it "de facto" becomes the industry norm. Products meeting those standards are presumed safe – otherwise manufacturers have to go through costly independent testing for products. The new safety standards will apply only to future products.

Tags: Apple, Microsoft, iPod, Zune

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