How do consumers know what they are getting ISO COPOLCO workshop May 2012

Issue 36 – March 2012

The theme of the next International Organization for Standardization Committee on consumer policy (ISO/COPOLCO) workshop to be held on 15 May 2012 in Fiji, will be, 'How do consumers know what they are getting?' The event, hosted by the Fiji Trade Standards and Quality Control Office (FTSQCO), will be followed by the ISO/COPOLCO plenary meeting on 16 – 17 May 2012.

There is more than meets the eye when a consumer looks at packaging, labelling, or a certification mark to serve as the basis for a purchasing decision. In most cases, a product might be safe and healthy, and the weight or quantities may indeed be as indicated. However, in other cases, the product may be counterfeit with potentially catastrophic health implications, or have incorrectly marked quantities, weights, or other characteristics. The latter cases invariably lead to inordinate costs and risks being borne by the consumer, and to distortions in the marketplace.

ISO/COPOLCO will examine market surveillance as a tool to combat counterfeit goods and ensure the integrity of legal metrology. Market surveillance is a crucial link in the chain of consumer protection. For example, a consumer does not have the sophisticated equipment necessary to ensure the accurate delivery of a quantity and quality of fuel from a gasoline pump, or to verify the true composition of the anti-malarial medicine he or she must take. This is usually the role of a government agency or a specialised association performing inspections, using a government-run or independent testing laboratory.

Where counterfeit products are concerned, the issue is critical in all countries, and in spite of the safeguards in place or under development, the problem is getting worse. In some countries, consumers have little recourse in cases of economic or physical harm caused by counterfeit goods, especially as economic incentives for counterfeiting are strong and deterrence is weak.

Therefore, the workshop will focus on how Standards and good market surveillance programmes can protect consumers' health and safety, combat fraud, and prevent product misrepresentation.

Summarised from an article by Dana Kissinger-Matray, Secretary of ISO/COPOLCO, in the International Organization for Standardization's ISO Focus+, January 2012.

Published in consumer and occupational safety.