ANEC The European Consumer Voice in Standardisation
This year sees the 30th anniversary of the creation of the EU Single Market, a market that serves 450 million consumers, including almost 20 million people in Romania. Jacques Delors, when President of the European Commission, famously remarked that no-one falls in love with the Single Market. But that is unfair as the Single Market has brought numerous benefits to the citizens of Europe. The rules governing the trade in products and services in the Single Market have increased consumer protection, raised levels of environmental protection and contributed to a better quality of life in general.
The creation of the Single Market was an achievement, but it was an achievement that could not have been reached without technical standards. By using European Standards – implemented as national standards in Romania and all other countries of the Single Market – manufacturers can presume their products and services meet the European laws and so can be put on sale. All interests can contribute to the writing of these European standards, usually through their national standards bodies (ASRO in Romania). The advantages that standards can offer business – such as the “presumption of conformity” to the law – means that business has an economic and financial interest in developing standards. This also means, knowingly or unknowingly, that the business representatives in standardisation focus on the needs of the “average consumer”, as the costs of providing products and services to the average consumer are at their lowest and profits at their highest. It needs ANEC – the European consumer voice in standardisation – to ensure not only the needs of the average consumer are met but also the needs of consumers who are children, older people or persons with disabilities.
One of ANEC’s biggest success stories, since it was created in 1995, is leading the revision of hundreds of European standards dealing with electrical appliances in the home to ensure these products are not only safe for use by all consumers, but accessible too. The original standards intended the appliances to be used by children or “infirm people” only under supervision, something both unrealistic and discriminatory. As a result, hundreds of millions of these appliances sold in Europe each year are now safer and more accessible – including those sold in Romania – thanks to ANEC. Everything from vacuum cleaners to washing machines, and from electric ovens to electric irons.
ANEC exists because not all countries have enough consumer experts able to work in standardisation. We bring together experts from 34 countries who develop positions that are taken directly to the organisations that develop European standards: CEN, CENELEC and ETSI. The representation of Romanian consumers in ANEC is through InfoCons and its President, Sorin Mierlea. Romania can be extremely proud of InfoCons which is a very dynamic organisation, bringing innovations to the benefit of all consumers.
European standardisation is going to become even more important as it enables the digital and green transitions that are at the heart of EU policy. Indeed, ANEC was proud to be a key contributor to the “Joint Initiative on Standardisation” which worked with the standardisation stakeholders to ensure the standardisation system was ready for this challenge. Romania was a vital facilitator in ensuring actions from the Initiative were delivered, especially during its Presidency of the European Council, with the closing event of the Initiative hosted in Bucharest at the Palace of Parliament on 7 June 2019.
ANEC looks forward to working with Romania – and InfoCons – in continuing to build the Single Market in the interests of consumers over the next 30 years!