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ISO COPOLCO

COPOLCO is the Committee on Consumer Policy of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Established in 1978, COPOLCO’s membership includes some 105 national standards bodies from countries around the world. Delegates typically are representatives from the national standards bodies and consumer organizations in the various countries. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is also represented. Consumers International and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have liaison status. ANEC, the European consumer voice in standardization, also participates as an observer. The U.S. participates in COPOLCO via ANSI’s Consumer Interest Forum.

COPOLCO provides a forum for the exchange of information and experience on standards and conformity assessment issues of interest to consumers. COPOLCO identifies standardization areas of priority interest to consumers and works to promote and coordinate consumer representation in those areas. It also influences ISO’s programme of work by proposing new areas for standardization where there is a perceived need for enhanced consumer protection. For example, in response to COPOLCO proposals, ISO has undertaken standards projects on:

  • customer satisfaction, including guidance for organizations on how to develop codes of conduct, complaints handling mechanisms, and external customer dispute resolution systems
  • environmental management systems
  • social responsibility
  • tourism and related services
  • trading of second hand goods

While COPOLCO itself does not write standards—that work is carried out by ISO’s technical committees—it does produce standards development guides, policy statements and informational publications on issues of importance to consumers such as:

  • Child safety
  • Comparative testing of consumer products and services
  • Consumer participation in standardization
  • General safety guidelines
  • Graphical symbols
  • Packaging
  • Product information and instructions
  • The needs of the elderly and people with disabilities
  • Development of standards for services – Recommendations for addressing consumer issues

Each year COPOLCO convenes an open workshop on an issue of concern to consumers. Workshop topics have included such diverse topics as: corporate social responsibility, standards for services, consumer protection in the global market, addressing the needs of ageing populations, and product labeling. Follow-up actions are considered by COPOLCO during its annual plenary meeting. COPOLCO also conducts training in standardization in conjunction with its meetings.

COPOLCO has developed a distance learning module Consumers and standards: partnership for a better worldthat provides user-friendly information on how standardization benefits consumers and how consumers can contribute to standards development. COPOLCO also has produced a brochure titled Involving Consumers: Why and how – Practical guidance for standards development bodies which provides members of ISO and IEC and other standards developers information on how to involve consumers in standardization.

Additional information about COPOLCO, and the role of standards and the consumer, is available on ISO’s website.

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