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Consumer priorities in standards work

COPOLCO focuses on aspects of the technical work within ISO and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) of most interest to consumers. Every year it updates its Priority Programme, which highlights the focus areas.

Areas of focus are divided into two categories:

Here are some examples of COPOLCO's priority areas.

For more information on any of these priority areas, and to find out more about what you can do, please contact the COPOLCO Secretariat, copolco@iso.org.

Key and emerging priorities

Child related products

Injury is a major cause of death and disability among children so making sure that the products used by children are safe and fit for purpose is of utmost importance. Children consume both products specifically designed for them, as well as products that are not necessarily intended for their use. Consumer representatives work with COPOLCO on standards affecting products such as playpens, folding cots, high chairs, prams and pushchairs, as well as car seats and protective headgear. Standards have also been designed to promote the safe design of playgrounds and sports equipment, as well as safety features for products deemed dangerous to children.

COPOLCO has also contributed to the development of ISO/IEC Guide 51, Safety aspects - Guidelines for child safety

Infant with a rubber toy

Product safety

Standards for product safety vary considerably across the world leading to confusion and unnecessary cost. COPOLCO is helping to resolve consumer product safety problems related to standards.

Examples of COPOLCO’s work in this area includes international guidelines to harmonize product recall practices and a practical guide to suppliers to address safety issues in consumers products at all phases in their life cycle. In addition, COPOLCO is addressing the cross-border trade of second hand goods that may lead to unsafe products being dumped on unsuspecting populations, with the development of a guide for use by standard development committees and the proposal of a standard.

Other focus areas include nanotechnology, food safety and personal flotation devices.

Many eggs with a chick in the middle

Societal issues

Social responsibility - Following a COPOLCO workshop entitled Corporate social responsibility - concepts and solutions (2002), COPOLCO was successful in initiating a proposal for an international standard on social responsibility.

Environmental management standards have been in place and under development for many years. Their achievements and potential are of considerable interest to consumers now that global warming is a hot topic!

Social security - another COPOLCO workshop, held on 24 May 2005, considered issues of societal security. Catastrophes such as the 2004 Asian Tsunami, environmental emergencies, and terrorism attacks have brought safety and security to the forefront of the public agenda. COPOLCO is now represented on ISO’s strategic advisory group on security and is monitoring the work on societal security.

hands of children who hold plant shoots

Services

COPOLCO has developed a guide to assist standards developers to take account of consumer requirements when developing standards for services. It offers a checklist suitable for any service and takes account of the needs of children, older persons, persons with disabilities and those from different ethnic and cultural heritages.

Tourism – Tourism is regarded as the world’s largest and fastest growing industries. COPOLCO identified safety, hygiene and accessibility as consumer priorities in this area, which have been fed into the ISO technical committee developing standards for tourism.

Water supply and wastewater - The needs of populations not yet served by fixed networks for water supply and wastewater are under discussion. Many issues are being considered in terms of customer service, including notification of interruptions of supply, contact points for public information, clarity of billing, affordable pricing and complaints handling. COPOLCO has proposed the development of an International Standard on network services billing to help clarify some of these issues for consumers.

person on the phone

Customer satisfaction in global markets

Three International Standards, originally proposed by COPOLCO and developed in ISO/TC 176, Quality management and quality assurance, have been completed:

ISO 10001, Quality management - Customer satisfaction - Guidelines for codes of conduct for organizations
ISO 10002, Quality management - Customer satisfaction - Guidelines for complaints handling in organizations
ISO 10003, Quality management - Customer satisfaction - Guidelines for dispute resolution external to organizations

Together, they form a comprehensive approach for all phases of managing customer complaints.

happy people

Vulnerable populations

COPOLCO has contributed to a guide (ISO/IEC Guide 71:2001, Guidelines for standards developers to address the needs of older persons and persons with disabilities) for standards developers on how to deal with issues relating to older persons and persons with disabilities in consumer related standards. Work in this field currently includes ergonomics and accessibility standards and information technology. Also in active consideration are standards for people with visual impairments, including proposals on tactile marking on the road.

nurse who walks beside a aged person

Personal health

The rapid spread of AIDS underlines the importance of high standards for mechanical contraceptives. Work continues apace on contraceptives for both men and women.

Harmonization of test methods and labelling for sun protection products is also vital so that consumers are correctly informed of the degree of protection from harmful ultraviolet rays that these products can offer.

researcher currently testing

Watching brief priorities

Consumers need to be vigilant and to monitor mature consumer standards to ensure they keep up with the needs of a changing world and developing technologies. COPOLCO monitors work on:

children playing