The consumer voice is more present in standardization

Nowadays, when international trade is steadily increasing, consumers expect to have a wide choice of goods and services, lower prices and additional information.

Standards are the vital tool to achieve these goals, being developed through an open process that provides the opportunity for stakeholders, including consumers, to express their point of view.

Have you ever wondered how to use your credit card anywhere in the world (SR ISO/CEI 7813: 2008) or how to watch WEB videos on any of the computers you have access to (SR EN 62676-2-3:2014)? Have you noticed that your baby’s toy has no sharp edges (SR EN 71-1:2015)? Or that the bicycle chain has protections (SR EN ISO 8098:2014)?

All this is possible because the products above meet the standards. Although industry should not ignore consumer’s needs if it wants to sell products and services, it still focuses on meeting the needs of the “average consumer” without taking into account the needs of those who are very young, old or disabled.

That is why consumers need to be represented in the standardization activity. Consumer’s contribution to developing standards adds a balanced and impartial view, contributes to the development of standards that reflect the wishes and needs of the end user, and provides information on the security issues encountered in the use (or misuse) of products.

Two examples of consumer’s engagement in developing standards show how useful their experience in using different products is:

Example 1

Small children are at risk of swallowing harmful products used around the house. According to the UK Government, poisoning with solid and liquid substances accounted for 1 out of 25 accidents in children under the age of four and accounted for almost 28,788 poisonings at national level only in 1999.

In this situation, upon the suggestion of COPOLCO (ISO Committee for Consumer’s Policy), ISO has developed a standard that allows the manufacturers to make packages resistant to children’s action. They provide a proper physical barrier between a child under the age of five and a wide range of dangerous products. The standard was implemented as the Romanian standard SR EN ISO 8317: 2016, Packages resistant to their handling by children. Test conditions and test methods for reclosable packages.

Example 2

In the European Technical Committee CEN / TC 162, which develops standards for rescue jackets and floating aid equipment, a consumers’ representative has suggested that lifejackets with very high performance levels such as those used by offshore professionals , were not as useful for using them in recreational purpose.

Therefore, the representative suggested to include requirements on ease of use and comfort. As a result, three parts of a standard that included consumer requirements were published. The resulting life jackets are now widely used.

Standards implemented as Romanian standards:

SR EN ISO 12402-3:2007, Individual floating equipment. Part 3: Life jackets, performance level 150. Security requirements

SR EN ISO 12402-4:2007, Individual floating equipment. Part 4: Life jackets, performance level 100. Security requirements

SR EN ISO 12402-5:2007, Individual floating equipment. Part 5: Floating aid equipment (level 50). Security requirements

In order to make the audience voice better heard, structures have been created that promote consumers’ interests in standardization.

At international level, this structure is the ISO Consumers’ Policy Committee (COPOLCO) which aims to strengthen the market relevance of international standards by promoting and facilitating the introduction of consumers’ vision in ISO policies, procedures, standards and services.

At national level, Romanian consumers are represented in the standardization activity by ASRO/CT 389 National Technical Committee –  Consumers’ Committee (COCON).

COCON’s activity falls into the following directions:

• assessing how standards meet the requirements and needs of the consumer;

• proposing inclusion of topics of interest to consumers in standardization programs;

• encouraging the involvement of consumer non-governmental organizations in standardization activity;

• informing and educating consumers;

• developing the national views that ASRO supports within COPOLCO, within the European Association for the Coordination of Consumers’ Representation in Standardization – ANEC and within other similar bodies.

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