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Efforts Made To Protect the Marketplace From Unscrupulous Conformity Assessment

ISO and IAF To Share Information on ISO 9000 Complaints

New York, May 08, 2002

In a move aimed at improving the "quality" of services related to ISO 9000 certifications, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Accreditation Forum, Inc. (IAF) have partnered to protect the image and integrity of conformity assessment and tackle malpractice by unscrupulous operators.

Announced earlier this week in a communiqué issued by the Joint Working Group (JWG) on Image and Integrity of Conformity Assessment, the cooperative agreement leads to a sharing of information between ISO and IAF about complaints received relating to certification of conformity to ISO 9000 quality management standards, as well as the actions taken in response to the complaints. The agreement is in response to a call for action issued by ISO's late Secretary General, Dr. Lawrence Eicher. Its stated purpose is the maintenance of ethical and competent services in the conformity assessment community.

The JWG is comprised of representatives of the ISO Committee on Conformity Assessment (ISO/CASCO); the IAF, a grouping of national accreditation bodies that verify the competence of conformity assessment organizations; and the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC), which verifies the competence of testing and calibration laboratories.

In its efforts to protect the customers and users of conformity assessment services from unethical or inappropriate practices, the JWG identified three distinct problem areas to address: malpractice (unethical and dishonest practices) by conformity assessment bodies; misleading advertising of the status of conformity assessment results, including misuse of marks of conformity; and confusion in the market-place between "certification" and "accreditation." As a result, the group is actively pursuing enhanced education programs that increase customer awareness of complaint handling systems and encourage dissatisfied customers to use them.

"Confidence that goods and services meet specified requirements is essential in the marketplace, and conformity, assessed via accreditation, certification or other means is a critical dimension of this confidence," states Lane Hallenbeck, vice-president for conformity assessment at the American National Standards Institute. "Any unethical or incompetent conformity assessment practices which impugn this confidence are of great concern to ANSI, and we fully support the JWG in identifying and resolving any of these issues that arise."

The JWG's actions coalesce with the interests of ANSI's International Conformity Assessment Committee (ICAC), and the National Accreditation Program (NAP) for registrars of Quality Management Systems (QMS) administered by ANSI and the Registrar Accreditation Board (RAB). The ICAC is the ANSI governance committee that gathers U.S. conformity assessment input to CASCO and the NAP is the U.S. accreditation member in the IAF.

The NAP program includes a complaint handling system that will help to ensure the marketplace can rely on the competence of ANSI-RAB accredited bodies for their activities related to QMS's.

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[Editor's note: please refer to the links in the left sidebar for additional details about the JWG communiqué and information about the ANSI-RAB NAP complaint handling system.]