They say forewarned is forearmed. This is particularly true of the second-hand goods market where an informed consumer will make safer purchases. It is important to be aware of the potential risk of buying used items, and simple precautions apply to ensure you don’t get caught out.

Rae Dulmage, Chair of ISO project committee ISO/PC 245, Cross-border trade of second-hand goods, explains that a few smart questions can help you decide whether a product is worth buying. “What am I going to use it for? How long do I expect it to last? Don’t just take someone’s word for it,” he says, “check under the hood. Most importantly, buy from a reputable dealer who knows what he is selling. And apply the principles of ISO 20245.”

The newly published ISO 20245:2017, Cross-border trade of second-hand goods, provides a valuable point of reference for governments as they intensify their efforts to establish minimum screening criteria for the trade of second-hand goods across borders. It is the world’s first International Standard on goods that are traded, sold, donated or exchanged between countries. This is important as it helps regulate an unruly market and diverts thousands of tonnes of unwanted materials away from our landfills.

In Canada, the market for used and second-hand goods grew last year to an estimated 29 billion Canadian dollars (CND), up from CND 1 billion the previous year, according to a 2017 report on the second-hand economy released by online classified ad Website Kijiji. And Canada is not alone.

Trade in second-hand goods continues to grow every year, particularly in developing countries and countries with transitional economies. End users purchasing these products expect them to be safe, free from defects, and to last for a reasonable amount of time, even in their second-hand state.

Just like any factory-bought product, used goods should meet the expectations of a reasonable consumer, who has full knowledge of their second-hand status. This means they must fulfil acceptance criteria in terms of quality, product information and usage requirements, with additional details about their condition.

The new ISO 20245 specifies how to evaluate and classify products on a ranking based on their condition: A (very good), B (good), C (fair), and D (poor). These measurable criteria are destined to be used by importing or exporting parties or governments for in-transit and port-of-entry screening of second-hand goods, and will ensure that both consumers and the environment are protected.

Rae Dulmage hopes that second-hand goods practices contained in ISO 20245 will become universally applicable and available. “If countries enforce ISO 20245 requirements as part of their import regulations, organizations integrate them in their purchasing and processing practices, and charities make them a common feature of their operations, unsafe and unreliable products will gradually be eliminated from the market and disposed of in the proper way.”

And as for consumers, he says, ISO 20245 will help ensure they get safe and serviceable second-hand goods that provide value for money.

ISO 20245:2017 was developed by ISO project committee ISO/PC 245, Cross-border trade of second-hand goods. The Chair is currently held by SCC, ISO member for Canada, under a twinning arrangement with SAC, ISO member for China, which holds the secretariat.

ISO 20245:2017 can be purchased from your national ISO member or through the ISO Store.