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Consumer Affairs Overview

How Standardization Helps Consumers
As consumers, our lives are made easier by standards.
  • We screw a light bulb into its socket. We flip a switch and, voilà, there is light.
  • We are traveling and in need of cash. We put a card into an ATM machine and out comes money.
  • We come to a stop at a red traffic light, because a red light means stop. When the light changes to green, we proceed on, because green means go.

All of these everyday examples that we take for granted are made possible because of standards and standardization.

What Are Standards?

Simply put, a standard is a documented agreement, established by a consensus of subject matter experts and approved by a recognized body, that provides rules, guidelines or characteristics to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose. Voluntary consensus standards developed by industry in accordance with ANSI’s procedures for due process, openness and consensus are often subsequently adopted by the government as part of the regulatory framework.

How Consumers Help Standardization

Consumers are defined as those individuals who use goods or services to satisfy their individual needs and desires, rather than to resell them or to produce other goods or services with them. Products that take into account consumer needs regarding design, packaging, and usage are more likely to be accepted into the marketplace, and more likely to be adopted into regulation. Consumer involvement in standardization not only promotes safer, healthier and more environmentally sound products and services, it also increases consumer confidence in the quality and reliability of products and services, and provides consumers a greater selection of goods and services at lower costs.

Consumers have played an important role in raising awareness of issues for consumers having special needs, for example, children, the elderly and the disabled. Consumer representatives also have recommended entire new subject areas for standardization. For example, standards for services, e-commerce consumer protection guidelines, and international environmental and corporate social responsibility standards are all subjects that were introduced by consumer advocates.

Getting Involved

One of ANSI’s primary missions is to further voluntary standards and conformity assessment activities as a means of benefiting the public health, safety and environment. Another is to assure that the interests of the public are protected and represented in standards activities. Accordingly, ANSI has established a Consumer Interest Forum to facilitate the representation of consumer interests in the voluntary standardization process.

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