Organizations that don’t follow good practice place consumers at risk of harm. Unsafe products, bad design, poor service and unfair treatment can lead to detriment such as:
- Breaches of online privacy or security
- Disadvantage, inconvenience and stress
- Negative impact on the environment
- Restricted access to goods and services
- Serious injury or even death
A range of consumer protection tools – legislation, regulation, enforcement agencies, charities and consumer groups and standards - work together to protect consumers from harm. Standards are a valuable part of the consumer protection toolkit complementing:
- Legislation - standards are voluntary but, in some sectors, legislation references specific standards, which help organizations to achieve compliance with the law e.g. toys and domestic appliances.
- Regulators – standards can provide detailed guidance for regulated firms about good practice e.g. Ofgem references BS 18477 in its Consumer Vulnerability Strategy.
- Policy – standards can support policy e.g. energy efficiency labelling
- Consumer groups – organizations, such as Which?, use standards in comparative product testing.
- Enforcement agencies – if consumers have a problem with an organization, standards can be used as a benchmark of good practice in a court of law.
Standards are a powerful consumer protection tool because:
- The consumer voice is included in their development - standards are developed by expert working groups, which must include all key stakeholders including consumers.
- Consumers have a real opportunity to influence outcomes - standards are developed by consensus, which means that expert groups must reach shared agreement on the content.
- International standards can tackle cross-border consumer issues, improving consistency of protection.
- Standards can be developed more quickly than legislation, allowing them to be responsive to new consumer challenges.
CPIN works closely with other UK consumer protection organizations via the BSI Consumer Forum.