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Expert Advice Tabs

14.12.16
Added by: Chiara Giovannini
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Although European standards are the very foundation on which the Single Market for products has been built over the past 20 years, CEN, CENELEC and ETSI, the European Standardisation Organisations, are private associations in whose work the societal interest may not be naturally represented. 

Through the Standardisation Regulation[1], the European Institutions have recognised the value civil society can bring in the development of European standards, especially noting the extended use of European standards to services, and to broader European public policies.

Although the national delegation principle in CEN and CENELEC brings strength to the European Standardisation System, consumer representation in standardisation is weak in many countries[2]. 

Based on this weakness, the Standardisation Regulation recognises categories of European associations that represent stakeholders often absent from the process at national level, or which have special economic value. Consumers, as represented by ANEC, are one of these recognised categories. Others are the representatives of workers, environmental protection and SMEs. This recognition enables the continued public funding of these associations by the EU, and their participation in European standardisation directly at the European level.

In order to fulfil our mission to raise standards of protection and welfare for all consumers, we require the European Standardisation System to allow us to be able to play by the same rules. “Be able” means to have the resources and be in the position to do so. We believe the Standardisation Regulation takes steps in that direction.

So should standards be used more and more in public policy? 

The answer to this question depends on the sector in question and for which purposes. Standards are not legislation and cannot replace legislation. 

While the main aim of standards has been trade liberalisation, the Single Market is the proof that standards can also be used to complement legislation to provide a high level of consumer protection. According to the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, “European Union policies shall ensure a high level of consumer protection” and “The (European) Commission, in its proposals (…) concerning health, safety, environmental protection and consumer protection, will take as a base a high level of protection, taking account in particular of any new development based on scientific facts (…)” [3]. 

As “the standardisation process faces challenges from the changing nature of the economy and diversification of business models, the ever-increasing role of information and communication technology, and the growing importance of services in today’s global value chains, where goods and services are increasingly provided together in a package[4]”, the role of standards in supporting legislation and public policies has to be re-examined. As mentioned in our first blog “Standardisation: for industry only?”, the European Commission has embarked on a “Joint Standardisation Initiative" to discuss and take action with the relevant stakeholders about standardisation. We are part of this dialogue and we look forward to standardisation better meeting the needs of consumers.

About ANEC

ANEC was created in 1995 by national consumer associations and public authorities in the EEC and EFTA countries. We are supported politically and financially by the EU and EFTA while our national members contribute in kind. ANEC provides both technical and political expertise using a network of consumer representatives across Europe. Our experts contribute to the work of the standards committees of the European Standards Organisations (CEN/CENELEC/ETSI) and the ANEC’s mission is to promote and defend the consumer interest, not only in European and international standardisation but also in the shaping of legislation on consumer products and services. We focus on 8 fields of priority: Child Safety; Design for All; Domestic Appliances; Environment; Information Society; Innovation, Services and Traffic. It is in these fields that we believe we can best achieve the goal of the EU for “a high level of consumer protection, notably through better representation of consumers' interests”. 

[1] Regulation (EU) No 1025/2012 (https://ec.europa.eu/growth/single-market/european-standards/policy/framework_en

[2] http://tinyurl.com/hyhfhgk

[3] Article 38, Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2007/C 303/01),  Article 114.3, Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU, 2007)

[4] European Commission Communication on the Single Market Strategy, COM(2015) 550 final, SWD(2015) 202 final

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