For product certification programs that are mandatory and subject to legal enforcement, getting the product tested and certified can help avoid financial risk, prosecution, harm to reputation and claims for compensation and damages. Manufacturers can ensure ongoing commercial success and maintain a competitive advantage with the correct product certification.
Ordinary customers may find it challenging to determine a product’s compliance with mandatory standards. Mandatory Standards such as those relating to consumer safety products are referenced in the Trade Practices Act, 1974.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) enforces Standards mandated by the Act by ‘surveying the market, responding to complaints and acting promptly against offending manufacturers or distributors, and by working with various industries to foster a culture of compliance’. Under the Act, distributors and retailers must ensure that the products they sell or distribute comply with the relevant legal requirements, or risk exposure to product liability claims.
Product certification is relevant in this situation as it involves an independent, qualified third party assessing a manufacturer’s capability to constantly manufacture a product to a recognised standard, such as an Australian Standard.
The product certification process involves assessing the manufacturer’s production systems and facilities, and selecting representative samples of finished product for testing by independent accredited testing facilities.
Once certified, the manufacturer will be able to display the assessing body’s certification trademark on their products. Regular auditing is required for the manufacturer to retain their ‘certified’ status.
Key benefits of product certification:
- Demonstration of due diligence to ensure products meet the relevant criteria for quality
- Ability to break into new markets and maximise the potential of existing markets
- Enables the product to stand out from the competition with a clearly visible mark representing quality
- Demonstrates to current and prospective customers that the product has undergone a rigorous audit and testing process
A certification mark on a commercial product indicates the existence of a product certification agreement between the manufacturer of a product and an organisation with national accreditation for both testing and certification. A certification mark provides evidence that the product conforms to a nationally accredited standard.
Additionally, it provides the assurance that the accredited certification organisation has ensured the item that was successfully tested is identical to that which is being offered for sale; that the successful test has resulted in a certification listing, which is considered public information, and sets out the tolerances and conditions of use for the certified product; and that the manufacturer is being regularly audited by the certification body.
The certified product carries the trademark to indicate the eligibility of the product for use in accordance with the requirements of the relevant standard or code. There are many certification marks available for different products, applications, programs and markets.
BSI Group Australia and New Zealand recommends that companies considering product certifications conduct thorough research before beginning the process.
Lorraine Orr, BSI’s General Manager of Risk and Compliance advises these companies to choose their certification program and certification body carefully to ensure that their certification mark is credible and appropriate for their specific stakeholder requirements.
It is important to ensure that the certification body is accredited by JAS-ANZ (Joint Accreditation Scheme of Australia and New Zealand), the government-appointed accreditation body for Australia and New Zealand responsible for providing accreditation of conformity assessment bodies (CABS) in the fields of certification and inspection.