What standards do for consumers

Whenever we turn on a light switch, use the internet, unwrap food from a supermarket, or our children play with a toy, or we do hundreds of other everyday things, we’re usually using standards without knowing it. 

Standards do three key things for products and services. They help make them: 

  • Safer – for example, by setting minimum standards for electrical appliances
  • Better quality – for example, by setting out how companies can produce clearer, simpler and more accurate bills
  • Easier to use – for example by establishing rules for product design, so that elderly and disabled people can use them 

Standards help all kinds of organizations to work in a better and smarter way, to improve their efficiency and be more innovative – and all those things benefit consumers. But there are some areas where standards have a particularly important impact on consumers: services, wellbeing, inclusivity, sustainability and the security of personal information.

> Find out more about how standards benefit us all by downloading our Standards matter to consumers brochure (PDF)


Consumers get essential services like finance, health or energy from a wide range of organizations and, in recent years, standards have helped raise the quality of services that they deliver. For example, there’s a suite of standards covering customer service. This gives organizations clear guidance on how to deal with the whole process: giving good service at the outset (see the customer service code of practice standard, BS 8477), dealing with complaints in the best way if things go wrong (see the complaints handling standard, BS ISO 10002), and dispute resolution if that stage fails.


It’s vital that products and services are safe – things like pushchairs, lawnmowers, phones, toys, kettles and toasters are obvious examples, but tourism, internet and other services can also hold  many dangers for consumers. Standards help to make a huge range of these kinds of things safer. For example, the toy safety standards, BS EN 71, addresses many aspects from flammability to the toxicity of materials to the risk of choking. And the service standard BS 8848 on adventurous activities deals with a long list of potential risks involved in that area of tourism, from planning and transport to staff and accommodation.


All consumers have an equal right to access products and services, whatever their needs and abilities, and standards play a key role in ensuring that people of different abilities have that access. One important example is the inclusive service standard, BS 18477. This helps service providers identify those who are vulnerable, whether it be physical disability, illness, bereavement, or mental illness, and help to ensure that all consumers may use the services.


Increasing, environmental awareness has put pressure on organizations to change the way they operate and reduce their impact on the planet. Environmental, ethical and social responsibility standards play a key role in this. For example, the social responsibility standard, BS ISO 26000, sets out basic expectations for any organization on its social and environmental performance and gives practical advice on how to achieve these. Another example is the sustainable events standard, BS ISO 20121, was developed to support the committee organizing the 2012 London Olympics. One result was that 100 per cent of visitors were able to get to the Games by public transport, walking and cycling. Standards covering energy use are also a good example of how we’re helping to protect the planet.

Security of personal information

As more and more of us use the internet for shopping, banking and social networking, people are increasingly concerned about security and privacy. Standards already exist that deal with many of these concerns, for example, BS 10012 on data protection, which gives organizations step-by-step guidance on how to manage customer information securely and meet their obligations under the Data Protection Act. And BS ISO 22857 on health informatics, which deals with transborder flows of personal health data. A number of new standards are also being developed in areas such as ecommerce and smart cities.