Get more for your money thanks to ISO/IEC Guide on consumer products

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By Sandrine Tranchard
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An ISO/IEC Guide will help consumers make better use of the products they buy. 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. In parallel, a new IEC 82079-1, Preparation of instructions for use – Structuring, content and presentation – Part 1: General principles and detailed requirements standard is developing detailed requirements and evaluation methods from Guide 37’s principles.

Dr. Gordon Hayward, Convenor of the working group that revised the Guide comments: “Instructions accompanying products should help consumers to use them as the designer intended. Recommendations for effective communication of what consumers need to know have been available for thirty years but many manufacturers are still unaware of them, so often there is no check of whether a product’s instructions achieve these aims. A key addition to the new edition of ISO/IEC Guide 37 therefore is a model wording for clauses that expert committees can include in standards for particular groups of products to require the accompanying instructions to be verified by the methods in the new IEC 82079 series standards.”

The purpose of ISO/IEC Guide 37 is to reduce the danger of injury or ill health and the risks to the product of damage, malfunction or inefficient operation. Instructions for use are a tool designed to enhance products users’ goals, which 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 product supplier’s website.

ISO/IEC Guide 37:2012 is written in non-technical language to explain the principles of what has to be considered when writing instructions for use. It offers a simple introduction to these factors to anyone with a professional interest: experts developing standards, product designers, manufacturers, writers of technical information and instruction for use, importers, regulators, inspection bodies and researchers.

The guide alerts instruction writers to the needs of older consumers and consumers with disabilities – for example, who may have problems with small print sizes. It also takes into account that since publication of the second edition of this guide in 1995 there has been an increase in cross-border travel of both fully packaged products and of consumers through migration and tourism, relocation of manufacturing and personal imports via the Internet, all of which mean that consumers are less likely to understand the language of the country from which a product, and its accompanying instructions, was marketed.

ISO/IEC Guide 37:2012, Instructions for use of products by consumers, was developed by the ISO Committee for consumer policy (ISO/COPOLCO). It costs 116 Swiss francs and is available from ISO national member institutes (see the complete list with contact details) and from ISO Central Secretariat through the ISO Store or by contacting the Marketing, Communication and Information department.

Sandrine Tranchard
Sandrine Tranchard

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