What standards do for consumers

Whenever we turn on a light switch, use the internet, or our children play with a toy, we’re usually using standards without knowing it.

Standards help to make products and services:

  • Safer
  • Better quality
  • Easier to use
  • Sustainable
  • Secure

When organisations use standards, it helps them to work in a better and smarter way, to improve their efficiency and be more innovative – and all those things benefit consumers. Some areas of organization’s activities are of particular interest to consumers, as they have the potential to have a significant  impact on consumers. Key areas of priority to consumers are services, wellbeing, inclusivity, sustainability and the use of digital technologies.  

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


Services

Consumers access essential services such as finance, health or energy from a wide range of organizations. Standards have been developed to help these organizations 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.


Wellbeing

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 them safer and reduce the risks for consumers. 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.


Inclusivity

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.


Sustainability

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.


Digital

As more and more of us use digital technology people are increasingly concerned about security and privacy. Some standards already exist that deal with some 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.