How we work
Key concepts of IEC Conformity Assessment Systems
Three major principles govern the IEC CA (Conformity Assessment) Systems: openness, democracy (including transparency), and obligatory mutual recognition.
- Free use of the services offered and results produced by the IEC CA Systems by anyone in the world. It is not necessary to be a member or even to be situated in an IEC-member country; any manufacturer may request a certificate for his products and anyone may access and derive benefit from the Systems’ certificates (publicly available on the Internet) to determine whether particular products have been certified.
- Any organization which undertakes to follow the rules may join the IEC CA Systems, even if it is situated in a country outside the IEC membership. Members of the Systems are organizations, at most one per country, which on being admitted to a System become responsible for their country’s testing and certification activities within that System.
- Any certification body or testing laboratory may be proposed by a member body to participate in a System, provided that it conforms to the criteria laid down in the rules.
This involves both governance and transparency.
All significant decisions in the Systems are taken by the full membership. These decisions as well as all rules and information relevant to the activity of the Systems are published and freely available to all members of the System.
Obligatory mutual recognition
This is where the Systems add major value. The principle of obligatory recognition of the other members' certificates and test results implies that no repeat tests are necessary. It enables faster and more economic entry into distant markets for manufacturers and provides a global assurance that, no matter where a test was carried out or a certificate was issued, it has the same value.
In order to accept the results of a distant laboratory – with which it has no direct relationship – as a basis for a certificate for which it must assume responsibility, the CB (Certification Body) must have a high level of confidence in the accuracy and impartiality of the laboratory’s work.
In the IEC this is achieved through peer assessment. When a new laboratory would like to join a System, it will be reviewed by an assessment team of experts from different labs that are already members of the IEC CA System and able to carry out similar tests. The team will examine the competence and independence of the new testing laboratory. A similar process is used for certification bodies.
Fair assessment by competitors
Although the team members are employees of organizations which may be in competition with the one being assessed, the mutual nature of the system will encourage them to be thorough and honest in their assessment. This is because their own organization will later be subjected to a similar assessment involving its competitors. An additional advantage is that the team members are likely to be experienced experts in precisely those issues which they must examine for the assessment.