ISO Consumer update
No. 10 - April 2012
….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.
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What's happening …
ISO/COPOLCO meeting and related events: 14-18 May
The COPOLCO meeting, workshop and expert group meetings will take place at the Sofitel Resort & Spa in Nadi, Fiji, from 14-18 May 2012. The highlight of the week will be an international workshop, How do consumers know what they are getting? The workshop will examine how standards could further address consumer protection issues related to counterfeit goods, and the role of legal metrology in ensuring product integrity.
The plenary meeting will cover initiatives on product safety, consumer participation in standards, and financial services.
See the workshop programme.
Also see ISO Consumer update, December 2011 issue.
For more information about the workshop and related events, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For COPOLCO members: Please register your delegation to the COPOLCO meeting and related events as soon as possible.
World Consumer Rights Day – 15 March
Consumers International celebrated World Consumer Rights Day on 15 March with the theme, "Our money, our rights: campaigning for real choice in financial services". CI member countries assessed the results of national campaigns aimed at improving the transparency and performance of financial services for consumers around the world. This is the second consecutive year that Consumers International has focused on financial services.
Against a backdrop of the financial crisis and its aftermath, Consumers International has highlighted consumers' ongoing problems with financial services: excessive indebtedness, inadequate information, excessive fees (notably for international remittances), and often a lack of true choice.
Some highlights included an online article by CI Director General Hellen McCallum and an internationally coordinated survey on switching financial service providers. This was associated with a "move your money " campaign in a number of countries: Australia, Belgium, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, and Portugal.
ISO/COPOLCO will also consider standardization of consumer information on financial services, mobile financial service provision and international remittances at its plenary meeting on 16-17 May 2012.
ISO's magazine spotlights services
ISO Focus+, the magazine of the International Organization for Standardization, brings services to the fore in its March issue. It features articles on mobile financial services, interoperability of financial transactions, standards for network services billing, tourism, training provision and much more.
According to the World Trade Organization, services are the fastest-growing sector of the global economy. They make up more than two-thirds of GDP world-wide, one-third of world employment and nearly 20% of world trade. In developed economies the share of services approaches 75% of GDP.
International standards for services have not yet developed to match this proportion of activity. Less than 2% of ISO's inventory of published international standards deal with services, although this proportion is growing for standards under development. Yet services have been an area of major consumer detriment and the source of a number of consumer complaints. Standards for services are therefore set to be a high-growth area in the future.
ISO/COPOLCO first brought standardization of services to ISO's attention in 1995, and more recently, in 2001 through international workshops and initiatives. These led inter alia to the publication of a standards writer's guide, ISO/IEC Guide 76:2008, Development of service standards – Recommendations for addressing consumer issues, and a new technical committee, ISO TC 228, Tourism and related services.
These articles, along with back issues of ISO Focus+, are accessible and downloadable from ISO's Website ISO Online free of charge.
New brochure on food safety
ISO has published a new brochure on food safety which presents ISO's solutions for ensuring quality and safety in food products. This is critical as food products regularly cross national boundaries at every stage of the supply chain.
The new brochure underlies the benefits of ISO’s consensus-based approach, which provides a platform for developing practical tools through common understanding and cooperation with all stakeholders – from agricultural producers, to food manufacturers, laboratories, regulators, and consumers.
The brochure highlights the benefits of ISO standards for industry, regulators and consumers, and argues that by implementing voluntary ISO standards, companies make a proactive commitment to the principles they stand for : quality, transparency, accountability and safety. Some of the organizations contributing to ISO’s food standards include the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Global Food Safety Initiative, the International Dairy Federation and World Health Organization, among many others.
Trainers at your service!
Competent trainers with skills and knowledge in promoting consumer participation in standards development are now available in most regions. All of these trainers have attended one of the Train-the-trainer courses, and most have applied this knowledge by giving and organizing follow-up training events. ISO members can draw on this valuable resource, either independently or as part of the larger programme for technical assistance managed by ISO's Development and training services (ISO/DEVT).
This programme is in line with ISO’s Strategic Plan 2011-2015 which emphasizes the "capacity and participation of developing countries" as well as "reaching out to and engaging stakeholders" – with a special mention of consumers as stakeholders with limited resources.
What's new in International Standards
Better outlook for glasses
People who wear glasses know the importance of having frames that are comfortable, will not break or deform or cause unwanted allergic reactions (e.g. through nickel release). To ensure that glasses manufactured everywhere in the world are safe to use, ISO has developed a standard outlining fundamental requirements for spectacles frames – ISO 12870:2012, Ophthalmic optics – Spectacle frames – Requirements and test methods.
Improved indoor environments
A new ISO standard on indoor visual environments will help designers, architects, builders and regulators to ensure the state of the art for the health, safety, well being and efficiency of the occupants and users.
Indoor visual comfort implies more than just providing a comfortable lighting environment for executing a task. A new ISO standard provides a framework for taking into consideration the various parameters that influence the quality of the indoor environment. ISO 16817:2012, Building environment design – Indoor environment – Design process for visual environment, will help design team members by giving them a process to ensure the required visual comfort, physiological effect of light and energy performance and sustainability of buildings.
Smiling with confidence
Have you brushed your teeth today? Toothbrushes come in all colours, and claim different properties, but how can we make sure that they will perform and not break or fall apart during normal use? ISO 20126:2012, Dentistry – Manual toothbrushes – General requirements and test methods, does just that.
Professor Hiroshi Nakajima, Chair of the subcommittee that developed the standard says, “With the world of offers on toothbrushes from different brands, common requirements are needed to compare different products. ISO 20126 provides a handy guide with harmonized best practice for the dentistry industry, toothbrush manufacturers and regulators. Most importantly, users will benefit from the knowledge that their toothbrushes meet international performance criteria, and will do their job right.”
Turning waste into gold
How can businesses increase productivity while reducing environmental impact? A new ISO standard helps business cut costs linked to waste and emissions and enhances their environmental performance.
The standard, ISO 14051:2011, Environmental management – Material flow cost accounting – General framework, assists organizations to better understand the environmental and financial consequences of their material and energy use practices, so that they can identify opportunities for improvement.
Around the world … COPOLCO member news
Australia welcomes olive oil standard
Standards Australia has published a new olive oil standard AS 5264 Olive oils and olive-pomace oils. The purpose of the Standard is to provide consumers with a clear indication of the nature and style of olive oils and olive-pomace oils they are purchasing. Additionally the Standard will assist in preventing the substitution of inferior quality olive oil or other (non-olive) oils in olive oil sold in Australia.
Previously there was no Australian Standard for olive oil.
Australians consume about 40 million litres of olive oil a year, the highest per capita outside the Mediterranean region.
The grades in the Standard have been established to accommodate the most common natural variations, particularly in Australian olive oils, without compromising the ability to detect adulteration. The Standard limits the descriptions for labelling the different grades of edible natural olive oils, refined olive oils and olive-pomace oils including "Extra Virgin Olive Oil", "Virgin Olive Oil" and "Refined Olive Oil". The descriptions must be prominent and clearly legible in full in the principal display panel of the label. Other designations such as "Olive Oil", "Pure Olive Oil", "Light" "Extra Light" or "Lite Olive Oil", are not permitted by the Standard.
"Cold pressed" and "cold extraction" are defined and may only be used where the information can be substantiated and does not mislead consumers.
The Standard clarifies whether oils are fresh or refined, includes the most current and effective testing methods for quality and authenticity and provides a technical basis for "best before" claims. Words describing the country/region of origin have to be substantiated and the natural variations that occur in different countries, olive varieties and regions are accommodated.
"Following past concerns over the labelling and claims in relation to quality this Standard is an excellent outcome for consumers" said COPOLCO Mirror Committee chair, John Furbank. "Many of the suggestions submitted by Consumers Federation of Australia (CFA) and Choice, particularly in regard to labelling, have been included".
The Standard is voluntary and as such has no regulatory status. However consumers may shortly start looking for labels stating "complies with AS 5264" and similar. Such a Standard, once established, also provides the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission with a useful yardstick with which to deal with fraudulent claims. AS 5264 has demonstrated the value of Australian Standards to consumers when developed to support labelling of food products.
AFNOR successfully holds a conference, Civil society and standardization
Organized at the initiative of the Chairman of the AFNOR Consumer Committee, the Conference was held in January at the Economic, Social and Environmental Council. It was a real success: good attendance, with representatives of environmental NGOs, consumers, trade unions of employees and ministries. Participants greatly appreciated a presentation from a representative of the Consumer Council of DIN, invited to present the situation in Germany.
An introduction raising the issues of governance in environment and sustainable development set the context. This was followed by a series of presentations bringing participants up to date on standardization, the role of ECOS (European Environmental Citizens Organisation for Standardisation); and the activities of the AFNOR Consumer Committee and the Consumer Council of DIN.
A round table then was organized to facilitate NGOs' experience with the standardization approach, based on concrete current examples. Participants particularly appreciated the meeting, which allowed them to exchange information based on experiences.
Participants were especially keen to continue to strengthen exchanges between consumer representatives and NGOs, based on the observation that the areas of interest often overlap. In fact, environmental concerns have become an increasingly high priority for the consumer society. There was interest in working together, including on contributions to COPOLCO where necessary.
Furthermore, the participants exchanged experience in standardization, and lobbying techniques; and noted that the national standard body's support was needed to explain the context and presentation of the work. This meeting was a first step; there is every interest in continuing in the same direction.
Cooperation agreement fosters consumers' involvement in standards
At the end of 2011, UNI and CNCU - the Italian Board of Consumers and Users Associations - signed an agreement to foster mutual cooperation and promote consumers' participation in standardization.
CNCU is the national board of the most representative consumers and users associations. Created by law in 1998 under the auspices of the Ministry of Economic Development (the Ministry of Economic Development chairs CNCU), it is regulated by the consumer protection legislation called “Codice del Consumo” (Consumer Code), a single Act which covers different aspects of the consumer issues, from correct information to product safety, access to justice and consumer organizations.
The agreement between UNI and CNCU aims at promoting and consolidating consumer participation in national, European (CEN) and international (ISO) standardization activities. In order to do this, it was agreed to develop an annual Strategic Plan, to identify consumer key priorities, to monitor and coordinate the participation of consumers' representatives in the most strategic national technical committees and, eventually, their relevant European and international interfaces. It was also agreed to strengthen Italian participation in COPOLCO, and finally, to organize up to twelve training sessions in 2012-2013 on standardization specifically addressed to consumer associations.
The Strategic Plan focuses on the following specific areas:
- qualification of services specifically dedicated to consumers, with particular attention to call centers, consumer education on financial services, public transportation services and tourism facilities;
- professionals services qualification, with particular attention to the health and wellness services area;
- consumer products, with particular attention to food safety, packaging and labelling, sustainability, product accessibility and goods counterfeiting.
On the other hand, the twelve training sessions, which will be organized in different Italian cities in 2012 and 2013, will focus on:
- main general principles and rules for standardization,
- the connection between legislation and voluntary standards
- the different existing types of standards and examples of standards addressing consumer issues, and
- highlighting the importance of consumer participation in the standardization process and the key role they can play in it.
The INTERNORM project fosters participation of consumers, trade unions and environmental NGOs
In order to support the involvement of not-for-profit organizations in standardization,
a three year pilot project has been launched by the University of Lausanne. The project, called INTERNORM, is an interactive knowledge platform where civil society organizations (mainly consumer associations, environmental NGOs and trade unions) can access academic knowledge on topics and issues related to international standardization processes. The ultimate aim of the project is to strengthen the participation of civil society in international standardization. The project provides knowledge resources to civil society organizations through the involvement of academic experts as well as financial support for their participation in committees: membership fees, travel and accommodation costs.
The civil society partners participate in the INTERNORM project regularly meet to review selected ISO draft standards and make comments that sustain the overall quality of the standard under development. INTERNORM has been an official member of the Swiss standardization association, SNV, since April 2011 and is currently involved in the field of tourism (ISO TC 228) and nanotechnologies (ISO TC 229).
New UK standard for financial advice
BSI has been working with industry experts and consumer bodies to develop a new standard aimed at helping firms, banks and independent financial advisers operate efficient and fair financial planning and advice services. A draft version of BS 8577, Financial advice and planning services has just completed the public comment stage. The final version is expected to be ready for publication in summer 2012.
BS 8577 will provide a benchmark for best practice and help to ensure that consumer interests are protected. It will complement ISO 22222, which sets criteria for individual competence, by covering the management of a firm, and incorporating all aspects that support the provision of advice services. For advisers currently working to ISO 22222
the new standard sets out a management framework that will enable their firms to support them in their roles.
UK has new consumer Minister
Norman Lamb MP has replaced Edward Davey as Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs. Edward Davey, who spoke at COPOLCO 2011, in London, has been promoted to be Energy Secretary.
Did you know …?
According to several international business associations, including the International Chamber of Commerce, counterfeit goods constituted 5-7% of world trade in 2007, and that this percentage is growing?
Explore the implications on consumer welfare with us at the 2012 ISO/COPOLCO workshop!
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
Is your organization a member of Consumers International? Find CI at www.consumersinternational.org.
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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.