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COPOLCO Turns 25 and Calls for International Standards on Second-Hand Goods


New York, Oct 13, 2003

The Committee on Consumer Policy (COPOLCO) of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) recently concluded its 25th anniversary meeting with a recommendation for ISO to develop new work on International Standards in the field of second-hand goods. COPOLCO’s consideration of this issue—an initiative launched by Consumers International—included a survey of COPOLCO members and members of ISO’s Committee on Developing Country Matters (DEVCO). The survey results indicated that the increasing trade in second-hand goods supported the need for international guidelines relating to health, safety, product information and environmental impact. Specific product areas of concern were identified as used tires, used vehicles, used electrical appliances, tools, machinery and equipment, and used clothing. A report produced by the COPOLCO ad hoc group on second-hand goods suggested that the proposed ISO standards would serve to supplement national regulations particularly in developing and transitional economies where consumer protection laws may be less developed or non-existent. The COPOLCO resolutions were made at the committee’s annual plenary meeting held September 10-11, 2003 in Bangkok, Thailand, hosted by the Thai Industrial Standards Institute.

In a related development, COPOLCO asked its working group Consumer protection in the global marketplace to undertake a feasibility study for an International Standard on recall procedures for consumer goods. COPOLCO noted the continuing growth in cross-border sales of goods that may subsequently need to be recalled from sale and the lack of any generally accepted International Standards on the recall of unsafe or faulty consumer goods.

In an effort to help prevent unsafe products from entering the market in the first place, COPOLCO heard a report from its ad hoc group on safety that has been studying the need for harmonized international product safety standards. Given a limited number of responses received to a survey of COPOLCO members on this important issue, COPOLCO invited the ad hoc group on safety to do further consultations if necessary and to prepare a discussion paper and a framework identifying how ISO could contribute to dealing with this global issue.

Continuing its focus on products, COPOLCO recommended that a major revision of ISO/IEC Guide 37:1985, Instructions for use of products of consumer interest, be undertaken. COPOLCO also decided to establish a working group to study IEC 62079, Preparation of instructions --Structuring, content and presentation, with a view to noting any aspects of consumer protection needing further development, particularly “design for all” issues, and also to consider its applicability within ISO. In addition, COPOLCO decided that ISO/IEC Guide 46:1995, Comparative testing of consumer products and related services – General principles, should be revised.

In the area of services, COPOLCO agreed to do some further editing of draft generic guidelines for services, and to continue to develop its proposals for international standards in the sub areas of tourism and financial services. COPOLCO also asked its global market working group to undertake a feasibility study for an International Standard on billing by retail network service providers, noting the accelerating global trend toward privatization or competitive liberalization of retail network services such as gas, electricity, water and telecommunications.

The COPOLCO meeting was preceded by a workshop on Consumer confidence and the role of standards—principles and ethical practice, and a one-day regional training seminar for representatives of consumer organizations and national standards bodies from the Southeast Asia region.

Participating in the COPOLCO events from ANSI were: Linda Golodner, president of the National Consumers League and chair of ANSI’s Consumer Interest Forum, Eileen Hemphill, a consultant and previously with the District of Columbia’s Office of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, and James McCabe, ANSI director of consumer relations and public policy. Attending COPOLCO for the first time, Ms. Hemphill observed: “[T]he Bangkok meeting provided direct evidence of the seriousness of COPOLCO's work and the dedication of its members and staff -- from advanced nations and developing countries as well. It is clear that ISO is keenly poised to expand its vital role in consumer safety and protection in the international standards arena. The opportunity for dialogue and engagement with colleagues involved in standards setting and consumer participation around the world offered an extraordinary global perspective of issues and concerns affecting us all.”

To obtain further information, please contact James McCabe (jmccabe@ansi.org; Tel: 212-642-8921), ANSI director of consumer relations and member services.

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