When developing a standard for a consumer product or service, the voice of the end-user is often just as critical as input from industry experts and manufacturers. Consumer participation in standardisation enables responsiveness to changing societal needs, can lead to greater acceptance and promote safety of a product or service.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) aims to support consumer participation through their Committee on Consumer Policy (COPOLCO). Since its conception in 1978, ISO/COPOLCO’s mission has been to promote and facilitate consumer input into ISO’s policy and technical work and help consumers worldwide benefit from standardisation.
The United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection shape COPOLCO’s approach to Consumer Protection which outlines principles of ‘the main characteristics of effective consumer protection legislation, enforcement institutions and redress systems.’
Overall, COPOLCO’s guiding principles support consumers’ rights to choice and safety, being informed and heard, the satisfaction of basic needs, redress, consumer education, and a healthy environment.
Standards Australia aims to address these eight principles through the national COPOLCO Mirror Committee (CMC). CMC advocates Australia’s position on COPOLCO policy through voicing Australian consumer stakeholder interests into the international committee’s forums, workshops, and policy frameworks.
The recent publication AS/NZS 8124.4:2020, Safety of Toys, Part 4: Experimental sets for chemistry and related activities (ISO 8124-10:2019, MOD), is commended by Standards Australia and CMC. The Standard aims to promote child safety in products from playgrounds, fingerpaints and experimental science sets.
“Australian participants are active on multiple specialised Working Groups under the COPOLCO structure and make valuable contributions that benefit consumers in Australia and around the world,” said Karen Batt, Head of International at Standards Australia.
This year, the annual COPOLCO Plenary was held as a virtual meeting for the first time across 5 and 6 May 2021. At the meeting, the Australian delegation articulated consumer policy priorities for the next 12-18 months and made recommendations on the current and future work programs for COPOLCO.
Looking ahead, COPOLCO Working Group 2, Key areas for consumers, has highlighted new and arising products and services in the consumer space. Some areas to keep in view include artificial intelligence, ethical claims and environmental labelling, data protection and privacy, electronic cigarettes and sharing economy. CMC has taken charge in voicing Australia’s interests in this space.
“It is vital to hear from consumer advocates as part of the standards process to build safety and fairness in a complex and highly technical marketplace,” said Teresa Corbin, Chair of CMC.
CMC meets every couple of months to discuss issues and prepare inputs into international COPOLCO meetings and other matters of importance at both the national and international level.
For more information, visit ISO COPOLCO, access consumer publications and presentations and information on COPOLCO events, or download a list of consumer standards published by ISO.
If you would like to get involved with CMC please contact the International team at firstname.lastname@example.org.