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ISO Consumer update

No. 15 - July 2013

….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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Contents

 

What's happening …

YOU and the big wide world of standards

They are not just for experts: our safety and security depend on them. For instance, having the same public information symbols everywhere means that, no matter where we are, we will know what to do in an emergency. One example among many! ISO Focus+ features short, accessible articles that reveal which standards matter most to you and how they can significantly improve your quality of life.

See more.

See this amusing video on the confusion a world without graphical symbols would have, and ISO's friendly graphical symbols booklet.

 

New challenges for food safety and integrity – How can standards keep consumers safe?

Innovation means a more globally integrated economy and complex supply chains. Consumers have more access to niche markets and related information about food: organic, fair trade, gluten-free, among others. The benefit is greater choice, but the result is less traceability and greater risk of fraud – accidental or intentional. A consumer buying food is increasingly removed from the supplier and does not always know the origin or production methods. Recent scandals have undermined public confidence, and fueled demand for local food sourcing and diversity, reliable labeling and reinforced market surveillance.

COPOLCO's international workshop, Innovating food products: How can standards ensure consumer protection?, took place on 21 May in Valletta, Malta. More than 100 representatives from consumer organizations, public authorities and industry from over 30 countries attended to share their ideas on how international standards can protect consumers in a changing world.

ISO's Vice President of Technical Management,
Dr Elisabeth Stampfl-Blaha, and the Chair of COPOLCO, Ms Norma McCormick, delivered keynotes.

The workshop directly preceded the 35th COPOLCO plenary meeting on 22-23 May 2013, supported by the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (MCCAA). Malta's Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties, Dr Helena Dalli, gave the keynote.

Participants noted areas where standards add value and reduce negative effects of innovation. The workshop first addressed the larger context of how innovation affects consumer goods and services. It also focused on standards’ role in food safety and integrity. Participants agreed on the need to apply the precautionary principle in food safety, improve consumer participation in certain ISO technical committees, promote reliable second-party online review systems and improve product labeling.

Innovative solutions for consumer protection include ISO 10393, Consumer product recall – Guidelines for suppliers; ISO 10377, Consumer product safety – Guidelines for suppliers; ISO 22000 and related food safety management systems standards; and the OECD's Global portal on product recalls for the benefit of regulators and consumers alike.

See the press release, presentations and conclusions, and audio news.

Read more about COPOLCO's priority standards initiatives for consumers.

 

A click to learn about consumers and standards – online

Learn everything you ever wanted to know about how standards help consumers, and how consumers can better impact standards…

The ISO Committee on consumer policy (ISO/COPOLCO) has just updated its successful on-line introductory tutorial, Consumers and standards: partnership for a better world, in partnership with Consumers International.

See www.iso.org/consumerstandards

The tutorial has already been successfully used in many training settings since its first edition in 2009. Designed to be completed in a half-day, it is useful both to newcomers to standardization and to seasoned professionals from consumer organizations and standards bodies who are seeking to review concepts.

Ms Helen McCallum, Director-General of Consumers International, says,
"This is a valuable and accessible resource for consumers to be able to build their knowledge of the role of standards in supporting consumer protection. It shows how effective consumer participation in international and national standards is key in developing standards that will meet consumers' needs".

Consumers and standards now contains a new section, "Practical suggestions for being an effective consumer representative" in addition to the following themes:

  • Standards in our world
  • How standards benefit consumers
  • Ensuring that consumers have their say in standards-writing
  • What are consumers’ interests and how does ISO address them?

Consumers and standards explains what consumers can gain from standards, and why standards benefit from consumer input. It contains a glossary of terms and definitions, and selected useful reference materials along with descriptions. An interactive review quiz at the end of each section will help the user review concepts. Furthermore, the tutorial is compatible for use with electronic devices and fully integrated with the Web so that references are always up to date.

Access the online training module here.

 

ISO Focus+ features product safety challenges

Consumers love to buy new products, from toys to furniture and electronics to sports equipment. But how can we make sure that the toys kids play with aren't harmful? That the coolest new high-tech device won't overheat and catch fire?

Each year, millions of people around the world are seriously injured because of dangerous products. These devastating injuries highlight the stakes when it comes to product safety.

The May/June 2013 edition of ISO Focus+ highlights some of the leading issues in the battle to protect consumers, from product recall and counterfeit and fraud measures to second-hand goods and market surveillance. See more.

 

Bridging the gap between governments and consumer expectations

An important framework for consumer protection around the world, the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection (UNGCP), is currently being revised.
Consumers International's recommendations for filling the gaps in current consumer legislation are here.

 

What's new in International Standards

Making consumer products safer

A new standard providing guidelines for consumer product safety is about to have a significant and positive effect on suppliers, products and consumers. ISO 10377:2013, Consumer product safety – Guidelines for suppliers, provides practical guidelines for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as well as larger firms, in risk assessment and management techniques for safer consumer products. The standard outlines general principles, safe design, safe production and retail safety. See more.

 

Recall alert – A message for all

You pour really hot water into a glass recipient and it explodes. You plug in your phone and a faulty wire causes a fire. Errors during the manufacturing process or differences in regulations can result in products that need to be taken off the market or risk endangering consumers. As more and more goods produced elsewhere find their way to local shelves, it is important that countries can harmonize procedures and share recall information in order to protect consumers everywhere.

To support countries’ efforts towards achieving this goal, ISO has published a standard to help organizations follow harmonized best practice in product recall situations: ISO 10393:2013, Consumer product recall – Guidelines for suppliers. This standard aligns recall practices worldwide, provides one global language for product recall communication, establishes one set of behaviour guidelines for developed and developing countries alike to protect consumers. It covers corrective actions such as refunds, retrofit, repair, replacement, disposal and public notification. It provides information on developing a documented and validated product recall programme to help implement timely and cost-effective recalls, minimize legal and reputation risks, and reduce health or safety risks to consumers. See more.

 

A revised standard to facilitate financial services

New financial services are increasingly available to many “unbanked” consumers thanks to Internet-based payment; yet, when making financial transactions online – everyone hopes it is safe, but who knows?

ISO is developing standards in this area within ISO/TC 68, Financial services.

ISO has just revised the ISO 20022:2013 series on financial services, which ensures the reliable transfer of data, making financial transactions more secure. See more.

 

New ISO handbook supports SMEs with food safety management

Food safety ranks high on the list of concerns for consumers, regulators, producers and retailers, as evidenced by The ISO Survey of Management System Standard Certifications – 2011, which recorded at least 19 980 ISO 22000:2005 certificates in 140 countries, a growth of 8 % compared to 2010.

This is proof that SMEs appreciate the potential benefits of implementing a food safety management system in accordance with ISO 22000:2005. But due to their size or lack of in-house technical expertise, these small entities are often at a loss when it comes to deploying such a management system.
If you are in charge of implementing a food safety management system in an SME, the new handbook, How to use ISO 22000, will help you develop and implement the optimal food safety management system. See more.

 

Get more for your money thanks to better instructions

How many times did you buy a product and fail to make it work, or even damage it after not understanding the instructions for its use?

ISO/IEC Guide 37:2012, Instructions for use of products by consumers, gives recommendations to help consumers clearly understand how to use the products they buy. Its purpose is to reduce the danger of injury or ill health and the risks of damage, malfunction or inefficient operation. Instructions for use – a tool designed to enhance product users’ goals – can be on the product itself, or its packaging, or on accompanying materials such as leaflets, manuals, or CDs, with additional formats and language versions on the supplier’s website. This guide alerts instruction writers to the needs of older consumers and consumers with disabilities – and takes into account language differences between countries. It provides useful checklists. See more.

 

More accurate self-testing results for diabetes patients

Diabetes patients will benefit from the latest version of an ISO standard for self-testing glucose monitoring systems. The standard requires that manufacturers of these systems provide even greater accuracy. See more.

 

Condoms – Making sure they are safe and work as intended

Male latex condoms and other mechanical contraceptives are used to prevent unwanted pregnancies as well as sexually transmitted infections such as the human immunodeficiency or HIV virus responsible for AIDS. Although male and female mechanical contraceptives are not 100% effective, they make a significant contribution to our health and have saved many from illness and even death. See more.

 

Around the world … COPOLCO member news

AUSTRALIA

International Consumer Product Health and Safety Symposium

ICPHSO's International Symposium will take place on October 9 and 10 in Queensland, Australia.

This event is the first international consumer product safety conference to be held in Australia and will include the ABCs of product safety, a step by step guide using
ISO 10377:2013, Consumer product safety – Guidelines for suppliers; legislative updates from top government regulatory officials from Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Europe and North America; the impact of social media on product safety; the latest on chemicals and nanotech research from a group of highly respected research groups in Australia and other nations; and the effectiveness of conformity and quality marks.

Founded in 1993, the International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organization (ICPHSO) is a non-profit, volunteer-driven, membership-based organization dedicated to providing forums for the exchange of ideas and information on health and safety issues related to consumer products that are manufactured and marketed in the global marketplace. See more.

 

FRANCE

The world's first standard for ensuring trust in online consumer reviews

Consumers globally are increasingly empowered to compare offers and rate goods and services online. According to a recent survey, almost 9 out of 10 French consumers read online consumer reviews and 89% rate them “useful” or “very useful”. Yet three-fourths of users claim that some consumer reviews are fake.

In response to this pressing concern, AFNOR has released the world's first standard for processing all consumer reviews published on the Web. 43 organizations (businesses, e-commerce industries, consumer groups, trade federations, national authorities and agencies) managed to join forces to build – in the space of just 18 months rather than the standards industry average of 36 months – core rules applicable to all online websites that collect consumer reviews on products, travel, restaurants, and services in general.

This is the world’s very first reference document defining core principles and requirements on how consumer reviews of products and services are collected, moderated and published online. It delivers solutions to build and improve online trust and customer relationships thanks to increased transparency and credibility. Authenticity is assured by requiring genuine reviews which are not bought by companies, with identification of the author and proof that the reviewer actually used the product or service. Moderation must be in the same language as the review, and opinions shall remain inviolable, although the author-consumer retains the right to take them offline. The rating service delivery must show the methods used to calculate ratings, and give the right to reply.

Read more on standard NF Z74-50, which you can order here, and see the press conference video (in French).

 

GERMANY

DIN Consumer Council requests a standard on unit pricing

The uniform design of information helps consumers to find and compare prices easily. DIN's Consumer Council, noting its 2012 study on the growing diversity of packaging, launched a proposal for a standard for the uniform disclosure of information to consumers, to "unify the design of information on the shelf" in May 2013.

This information includes the final price, unit price and quantity of products at the point of sale. Unit pricing shows the price based on a defined amount, such as 100 milliliters or kilograms. Unit price specification is particularly important for consumers, because it is much easier to compare prices of different pack sizes when shopping.

The proposed new standard specifies twin principles of price clarity and authenticity, by ensuring that the product offering and advertising makes this information easily identifiable and legible; specifications for "easily recognizable" and "readily perceptible" must be considered in the design of the information.

 

GHANA

The importance of consumer participation in standardization

Consumer participation in standardization is essential because it ensures consumer confidence in standards and relevance to market needs. When consumers are involved, they tend to understand standards-related issues better, resulting in greater confidence, and ensuring that only market-relevant standards relating to the interests of consumers are developed and promoted.

The role of consumers is relevant both at the technical and policy levels because the consumer is always at the receiving end of the production of goods and services. Indeed, consumers form the largest economic group in any economy. Consumer participation in standardization ought to be seen as a right, not a privilege. For this reason, governments, as representatives of the people, are obliged to address the needs of consumers.

On 5 March, 2013, a Ghanaian NGO, the Consumer Protection Agency (CPA), spearheaded a public consultation workshop on a consumer bill. The Ghana Standards Authority contributed, and the bill is now in advanced stages of development.

CPA’s interest in the development and passage of the consumer bill is highly commendable, and is a follow-up effect of an earlier workshop, Consumer Participation in Standardization, which the Ghana Standards Authority organized on 15-16 March 2012. Among other things, the workshop aimed at sensitizing consumers on the importance and relevance of consumer participation in the process of standards development. This workshop greatly influenced many consumers and some consumer groups in relation to the development of policies and laws relating to consumer interests.

For more information contact Mr Kofi Amponsah-Bediako, Head of Public Relations, Ghana Standards Authority at fmd@gsa.gov.gh.

 

UNITED KINGDOM

Consumer and Trading standards conference

This conference and exhibition held on June 17-20, run by The Trading Standards Institute, the professional association for trading standards officers who undertake market surveillance and enforce consumer legislation in the UK, is the key UK consumer event of the year.

Ms Christine Heemskerk, TSI Chair and panelist at COPOLCO's workshop in May, presented a theatre show on the relevance of standards, at a side meeting of the British Standards Institute (BSI) Consumer and Public Interest Network, with Mr Newell Hampson-Jones. BSI also sponsored events to increase school children's knowledge of consumer affairs: the Young Consumers Competition and Consumer Challenge Quiz.

Good practice for gap years – and other adventurous activities

Lots of young people take part in organized activities abroad each year and parents want to be sure that their children are as safe as possible. A recently revised version of the British Standard BS 8848, that sets out the steps that providers should take to minimize risks for those on visits, fieldwork, expeditions and adventure holidays is now out for public comment. This is the forerunner of an international standard currently in preparation, ISO/DIS 21101, Adventure tourism – Safety management systems – Requirements.

Standards matter to consumers everywhere

Standards are everywhere – helping to ensure that things, such as the car you drive or the toys your children play with, are safe and easy to use. Standards also cover customer service, such as complaints handling and billing, and tackle key issues such as social responsibility and management of sustainable events. A new BSI consumer publication describes how standards benefit us all, every day.

 

REGIONAL CONSUMER ISSUES

ASIA

Standards Asia magazine

Standards Asia features articles on health and wellness, consumer product safety and how Asia is working in ISO/COPOLCO. Download issue 01/2013 here.

EUROPE

Citizen Requirements and Societal Security

Recent disasters demonstrate that meeting citizen needs is central to reducing fatalities and minimizing injury.

The European Committee for Standardization (CEN)'s technical committee CEN/TC 391, Societal and Citizen Security, has unanimously re-affirmed its commitment to addressing citizen requirements in the development of its standards.

A special session will take place on 3 October 2013 in Paris to address the full scope of citizen requirements for societal security. Hosted by the ISO members of France and Germany, AFNOR and DIN, the session has been convened to establish both the full scope of citizen needs in disaster conditions and how these requirements should be structured – for example, as guidelines or requirements?

It is relevant to all those responsible for the protection of people at risk: emergency services/first responders, media representatives, psychologists/psychiatrists, medical, aid agencies, health & safety experts, consumer councils, and university researchers. For more information contact Mr Joost Cornet, Convenor CEN TC 391, E-Mail: jcornetadvies@gmail.com or Ms Jolien van Zetten, NEN, Secretary to CEN TC 391, E-Mail: jolien.vanzetten@nen.nl.

The European Product Safety Package and draft Consumer protection Market Surveillance Regulation

On 13 February, the European Commission adopted a Product Safety Package comprising a proposal for a Consumer Product Safety Regulation (CPSR) to replace the General Product Safety Directive (GPSD), a proposal for Market Surveillance Regulation and multiannual market surveillance plan.

In a joint position, ANEC, the European consumer voice in standardization and BEUC, the European Consumers' Organization, have welcomed the proposal to replace a Directive by a Regulation, but are critical of the deletion of the precautionary principle, and would like consideration to be given to child-appealing products.

In May, ANEC and ORGALIME, the European Engineering Industries Association, issued a joint paper assessing the Proposal for a Regulation on Market Surveillance (MSR).

 

Did you know …?

Each year, 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted. ISO standards can help us combat food waste and encourage all of us to reduce our "foodprint". Find out how.

 

To find out more...

Visit us at ISO and Consumers on ISO's Website.

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 http://www.iso.org/iso/iso_members.

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. Contributor: Ms Katia Kerswell

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

 

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