Does it fit will it work and can Standards help key consumer concerns at heart of international work

Does it fit, will it work and can Standards help?' was the subject of a workshop organised by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) committee on consumer policy (COPOLCO), in New Delhi, India, on 26 May 2009. Over 100 participants from consumer associations, public authorities, businesses, and from the national Standards bodies of some 30 countries, met to discuss how consensus-based international Standards can help meet consumer needs for interoperability of goods and services.

Asking questions like, 'why can't I install my new software properly', or 'why do I need so many different remote control devices', the workshop looked at:

  • how international Standards can help achieve consumer expectations for cost savings, longer product life, greater convenience, and reduced waste
  • areas where lack of interoperability poses safety risks to consumers and restricts their access to a full range of goods and services, fair prices, and information.

Interoperability requires compatibility of spare parts, accessories, and components among different models, product lines and brands of, for example, household appliances or electronic goods. It also concerns service areas such as insurance, banking and healthcare, notably for transparency of information and service delivery. Interoperability is also an essential enabler of effective information and communication technologies.

Among the issues raised is that interoperability is often understood differently by consumers, business, and other stakeholders. Participants called on consumers to be more active in letting organisations know the features and services they would like, and for consumer representatives to continue to be involved in standardisation. Participants suggested that international Standards can help by disseminating best practice and facilitating innovation – allowing businesses to better channel research efforts and to market new technologies.

Published in consumer and occupational safety.