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ISO Consumer update

No. 09 - December 2011

….An update of ISO's activities regarding standards and consumer protection, for the members and stakeholders of the ISO Committee on consumer policy (ISO/COPOLCO).

ISO/COPOLCO is ISO's forum for promoting consumer interests in standardization. Its mission is to:

  • Enhance the market relevance of International Standards by promoting and facilitating the input of consumers' views into ISO's policies, procedures, standards and services
  • Help consumers around the world benefit from standardization.


You are receiving this eNewsletter because you are involved in the activities of ISO/COPOLCO.

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Contents

 

What's happening …

"How do consumers know what they are getting?"

There is more than meets the eye when a consumer looks at packaging, labelling or a certification mark as a basis for a purchasing decision. In most cases, a product might be safe and healthy, and the weight or quantities are indeed as indicated. However, in other cases, the product may be counterfeit with potentially catastrophic health implications, or have incorrectly marked quantities, weights or other characteristics. The latter case invariably leads to inordinate costs being borne by the consumer, and distortions in the marketplace.

conference room

ISO/COPOLCO will organize a workshop addressing these issues: "How do consumers know what they are getting?". This event will take place on Denarau Island, Nadi, Fiji on 15 May 2012, at the invitation of the Fiji Trade Standards and Quality Control Office (FTSQCO).  It will be followed by the COPOLCO plenary meeting on 16-17 May.

"How do consumers know what they are getting?" will address market surveillance as a tool to combat counterfeit goods and ensure the integrity of legal metrology. Market surveillance is a crucial link in the chain of consumer protection.  For example, a consumer often does not have the sophisticated equipment necessary to ensure accurate delivery of fuel from a gasoline pump, or verify the true composition of the anti-malarial medecine he or she must take. This is usually the role of a government agency or a specialized association performing inspections, using a government-run or independent testing laboratory.  

Regarding counterfeit products, the problem is compelling in all countries, and in spite of the safeguards under development or in place, the problem is  getting worse. In some countries, consumers have little recourse in cases of economic or physical harm caused by counterfeit goods, especially as economic incentives for counterfeiting are strong and deterrence is weak.

Therefore, the workshop will focus on how standards and good market surveillance programmes can protect consumers' health and safety, combat fraud and prevent product misrepresentation.

For more, contact copolco@iso.org.

 

Trainers in consumer issues "at the ready"

A pool of competent trainers with skills and knowledge in promoting consumer participation in standards development now exists. ISO members can draw on this valuable resource, either independently or as part of the larger programme for technical assistance managed by the ISO Development and Training Programme (ISO/DEVT).

To help meet ISO Strategic Plan objectives to enhance stakeholder participation in standardization, ISO/COPOLCO and ISO/DEVT jointly embarked on an ambitious "Train-the-Trainer" programme in 2007. Candidates for this training were carefully selected from a large pool of applicants representing both standards bodies and consumer organizations. They  were given practical training and teaching materials on issues relating to consumer participation in standardization.

This programme was mainly supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, with contributions from some ISO members and Consumers International. The Ghana Standards Board and AFNOR, the French standardization body, each hosted a workshop.

The trainers learned training skills, events management skills, and  consumer participation issues. Subject areas included standards and consumer protection, and how standards can benefit from consumer participation. Case studies showing how National Standards Bodies engage with consumers at the national level, channels for technical assistance, and cooperation between NSBs and consumer organizations were also covered. 

Delegates attending the initial events were expected to put into practice what they have learnt. A series of regional, semi-regional and national follow-up workshops  attracting various levels of sponsorship has largely accomplished this. Many of the trainers have now successfully acted as training team members at follow-up workshops. It is only after this that a candidate is considered to be fully competent.

For more information about this programme and about technical assistance, contact devt@iso.org.

 

ISO/TC 159 to play key role at the World Congress on Ergonomics

The 18th World Congress on Ergonomics will be held on 12-16 February 2012 in Recife, Brazil organized by the IEA - the International Ergonomics Association. The theme of the Congress is "Designing a Sustainable Future" and expresses the increasingly urgent concern that any design activities must take into account the use of resources when trying to address human needs so that these needs can be met not only for the present, but also for future generations.

Accessibility is a vital component in the social element of sustainability; it is the degree to which a product, device, service, environment or facility can be used by as many people as possible, including persons with disabilities. The importance of accessibility is signified by the fact that the number of persons with disabilities, either congenital, acquired or as a result of age is estimated to be above 1 billion worldwide.

Besides giving a keynote about ISO's experience in developing International Standards on sustainability and accessibility in ergonomics and related fields, ISO/TC 159 has been invited and confirmed to organize a workshop on Accessibility.

See more.

 

What's new in International Standards

European Commission backs ISO 26000

The ISO International Standard ISO 26000 is one of the three documents being recommended by the European Commission (EC) on guidance for European enterprises to fulfil their commitment to social responsibility. The recommendation comes in a recently published communication from the EC to governing bodies of the European Union (EU) outlining a renewed strategy for corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the EU from 2011 to 2014.

See  more.

 

New ISO standard to prepare for emergencies at nuclear facilities

If a nuclear criticality accident occurs at nuclear facilities, it is not only essential to respond as quickly as possible but more importantly, to have prepared such emergency response. The new ISO standard, ISO 11320:2011, Nuclear criticality safety – Emergency preparedness and response, provides criteria for the establishment and implementation of actions that will effectively mitigate the consequences of a nuclear criticality accident that could impact human health and safety, quality of life, property and the environment.

See  more.

 

ISO International Standards offer benefits for a world of seven billion people

As the world population achieves a new landmark of seven billion people, ISO standards offer practical tools for sustainability and a better, safer world.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), today the population of our planet is seven billion people. ISO Secretary-General Rob Steele comments: "Standards play a pivotal role in facilitating the interaction of so many people. Every day, thousands of ISO standards help people at work, in the home and at play, by promoting quality and efficiency, making lives safer and more comfortable, fostering economic prosperity and looking after our planet."

See  more.


New ISO management system standards for records facilitate transparency in corporate governance

In the wake of recent failures in corporate governance, two new ISO standards will help organizations to disclose corporate information quickly and effectively. Increased pressure by industry regulators obliges companies to provide such information because irregularities in financial management, ethical dealings, disclosure, and transparency of decisions have become common.

These new standards, ISO 30300:2011, Information and documentation - Management systems for records - Fundamentals and vocabulary, and ISO 30301:2011, Information and documentation - Management systems for records - Requirements, distil the expertise of experts drawn from 27 countries on five continents.

See  more.

 

Around the world … COPOLCO member news

FRANCE

Mobilization for universal design

Aconference on universal design (also known as "design for all", or "inclusive design").

As written in Article 2 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, "universal design" means the design of products, environments, programmes and services to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. “Universal design” shall not exclude assistive devices for particular groups of persons with disabilities where this is needed.

Applying the principles of universal design can promote accessibility for all. The ageing population and policy decisions affecting persons with disabilities make all actions which raise awareness and encourage the deployment of relevant initiatives even more necessary.

Standardization already provides tools for designers in the areas of domestic appliances, construction, and ICT, but many more projects will likely start in the coming years. The challenge will be to organize feedback and incorporate all users' needs in the future.

The Consumer Committee of AFNOR is also continuing its outreach on this topic. It has held regular contacts with disability groups, and will continue to do so.

 

INDIA

A lecturer, researcher and consumer advocate from the University of Delhi, Professor Sri Ram Khanna, commented on rising food prices in Indian markets during a recent interview on CNEB TV, near Delhi, on 4 November 2011.

Prof. Khanna pointed out that food price inflation exceeded 12% according to official data released that week and that this was putting strain on poorer families. The root causes lay in the rising cost of production on the supply side and rising demand in food consumption, fuelled by rising incomes and increased demand from families for fruit, vegetables and a number of other items. Furthermore, the demand from hotels and restaurants was increasing as more middle-class families go out to eat.  Prof. Khanna stated that there is little the government can do to address the imbalance between supply and demand. Food price inflation would therefore likely continue in the short term. He added that only measures to increase food supply and agricultural production could ease food price inflation in Indian markets in the medium  and long term.

 

NEW ZEALAND

Consumer law reform

The government in New Zealand is undertaking a major review of consumer law, and a Bill has been drafted to put proposed changes before the New Zealand Parliament. The objective of the Bill is to revise and update consumer law so that it:

  • is principles-based;
  • enables consumers to transact with confidence;
  • protects suppliers and consumers from inappropriate market conduct;
  • is easily accessible to those who are affected by it; and
  • achieves alignment with the Australian Consumer Law, as appropriate, in accordance with the Government’s agenda of a single economic market with Australia.

The Bill contributes to the government’s Regulation Review programme. It modernizes consumer law; several of the existing consumer laws had not been reviewed for many years and are not in accordance with modern trading practices such as Internet transactions, and telephone and credit card sales.

If the proposals in the Bill are ratified they will extend the range of powers open to regulators to take action against unsafe consumer products, and make additional requirements of businesses to report incidents involving serious injury to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.

Button battery safety initiative

The New Zealand Ministry of Consumer Affairs is working with counterparts from United States (CPSC), Australia (ACCC), Japan (METI) and Korea (KCA) looking at the growing concerns around button batteries. Button batteries (the small disc shaped batteries) are increasingly used in a wide variety of applications.  These include remote control units, mobile phones, hearing aids, toys, musical greeting cards, novelty books, calculators, watches and so on.  They are getting more powerful than earlier variants with the use of lithium ion technology.  Their small size has always presented an obvious hazard for infants and children around swallowing and choking. 

A new and emerging risk has become evident with data showing that when a button battery comes into contact with bodily fluids it creates an electrical current. If swallowed, these batteries can cause burns and tissue damage in as little as two hours and lead to serious and sometimes permanent injuries. In terms of consumer awareness, this appears to be a little-known threat and can cause serious damage that requires multiple, painful surgeries to repair. In some cases it can prove fatal.

Evidence from the US, Australia and elsewhere shows that button batteries are an emerging risk, as they are found in an increasing range of devices and new lithium ion types are much more powerful. In the United States, more than 19 children sustained life-threatening or debilitating injuries last year.

The New Zealand Ministry of Consumer Affairs is aware of at least four cases of injury in New Zealand, though less serious incidents are likely to be underreported. There is also evidence that the elderly may also be at risk, with overseas reports of button batteries – also used in hearing aids – being mistaken for pills and tablets. This initiative will examine the options for mitigating the risks around button batteries that could be applied around the world.

 

NORWAY

Action plan on universal design launches new projects

Standards Norway has had an action plan on universal design in standardization since 2004. Several national standards for universal design have been published and there are more to come. Several reports have also been produced for the Norwegian Authorities on standardization in such fields as self-service automats, touch screen technology, universal design of open networks, including mobile networks, universal design of services and others.

At the European level, CEN has recently established a Strategic Advisory Group on Accessibility. The EU Commission has given a mandate M/473 to this work, which covers coordination of standardization concerning design for all and implementation in relevant standards. Standards Norway holds the secretariat of CEN/SAGA.

Published Norwegian standards (NS) resulting from the plan:

NS 11001-1:2009, Universal design of building constructions - Part 1: Buildings open to the public. (Published in English)
NS 11001-2: 2009, Universal design of building works - Part 2: Housing
NS 11010: 2011, Accessible tourist destinations - Registration of priority requirements and recommendations (Published in English)
NS 11005:2011, Universal design of developed outdoor areas - Requirements and recommendations

Ongoing projects which will lead to national standards or publications:

During spring 2012, Standards Norway plans to publish a Norwegian Guideline on “Wayfinding in buildings”.

A standardization project has been started to develop standards on universal design of ICT, including a standard on self-service automats and on accessible formats of documents. The committee developing these standards is also monitoring the JWG eAccessibility that was launched to meet the requirements of EU’s Mandate M376 Design for All of ICT for public procurements.

A standardization project on universal design and accessibility related to services has been established. It is developing a generic standard related to the universal design of the physical framework supporting the services, and the actual performance of accessible services.
 
Based on a report on the status of standardization related to universal design of the travel supply chain, a project is ongoing to develop an electronic toolkit for public procurers, deliverers of transport related goods and services, public authorities and NGOs, where information on guidelines, legislation, available standards, and policies affecting universal design of transport can be found. This “one-stop-shop” toolkit is divided into information (ICT and ticketing), outdoor areas, the built environment and infrastructure and means of transport. Later, a standardization project will be launched.

Standards Norway is following the work based on EU’s Mandate M420 on Design for All of Buildings, which is administered by CEN WG 207.

 

THAILAND

TISI trains and prepares students for industry

The Thai Industrial Standards Institute has cooperated with universities in providing training on international management system standards to senior-year students so that they can apply this  knowledge in their future careers. This could prove instrumental to promoting standards in the workplace, and in turn benefit quality in production and safety for consumers. 

The project's main objective is to help students understand the significance of standards, be able to make practical use of the knowledge in their vocations and be better prepared for the task of  setting up management systems to enhance their organization's efficiency and effectiveness. Because these students are the key resource and force behind the country’s industrial development, the Thai Industrial Standards Institute has placed high priority on this project: students can contribute to high-quality production and consumer protection.

To date 2,036 students from 11 leading universities have undergone the training. More are expected to join them, as TISI and the university network have been involved in the development of management system courses adapted for the curriculum of relevant faculties.

The project has received the full cooperation of participating universities who recruited students in fields related to the training. This has helped maximize the benefits and meet the objective of the project. 

 

UNITED KINGDOM

Green Deal on its way

A key stage in the UK Government’s programme to increase energy efficiency whilst protecting the ‘vulnerable’ consumer has just been reached. On 18 October 2011, the Energy Bill received Royal Assent and became the Energy Act 2011.

The Energy Act provides for some of the main elements of the UK Government’s Annual Energy Statement which is divided into four areas:

  • Saving energy through the Green Deal and supporting vulnerable consumers
  • Delivering secure energy on the way to a low carbon energy future
  • Managing our energy legacy responsibly and cost-effectively
  • Driving ambitious action on climate change at home and abroad 

British Standards Institution, with consumer involvement, has been working with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), to draft a Green Deal standard, PAS 2030, which sets out requirements that installers will follow to ensure that the installation of new energy efficiency measures is completed properly.  As part of the British Government’s Green Deal initiative, all installers will have to be certified to PAS 2030.  The draft has been out for public comment and it is expected to be published by the end of January 2012.

See more.

BSI carbon footprinting standard updated

Another standard which fits with environmental concerns is PAS 2050, the BSI standard used by organizations internationally to calculate the carbon footprint of their goods and services. It was described to COPOLCO members at the Annual Workshop in Seoul in 2008.

The 2011 revision makes the PAS 2050 methodology more relevant and accessible to a wider range of organizations by addressing issues raised by the international carbon footprinting community, as well as the experiences of PAS 2050 users since the standard was first published in 2008. This includes aligning the standard as much as possible with other internationally recognized footprint methods.

 

Did you know …?

that the newly-published ISO 50001:2011, Energy management systems – Requirements with guidance for use, may one day influence 60% of the world's energy consumption? Find out why – see the experience of the standard's early adopters, here.  

 

To find out more...

Visit us in the consumer section of ISO's Web site, ISO Online, www.iso.org. Consult: "Resources for ….. Consumers".

Is the ISO member in your country a member of COPOLCO? If not, encourage this national standards body to join COPOLCO!

For a full list of ISO members, see
www.iso.org/iso/about/iso_members.htm
.

Is your organization a member of Consumers International? Find CI at www.consumersinternational.org.

Questions …? Comments… ? News to share…? Subscription requests …..? We would like to hear from you!  Contact us at copolco@iso.org

 

ISO Consumer update is a free service by the Secretariat of the ISO Committee on consumer policy (ISO/COPOLCO).
Editor: Ms. Dana Kissinger-Matray, Secretary of ISO/COPOLCO.

ISO Consumer update gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the Marketing, Communication and Information services of the ISO Central Secretariat.

 
 

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