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Minimizing uncertainty over purchases
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Photo: Mansouraboud68, Pixabay

A man walks into a pet shop to return his dead parrot. The Monty Python sketch makes us smile because many of us recognize the frustration of buying a product or service that does not match its description.

Indeed, there are very few things more annoying than opening a box and not finding what you thought you had bought inside. It not only wastes the consumer’s time and energy but also reflects badly on the manufacturer.

It can also be costly for all parties involved. The growth in online shopping linked to the COVID-19 pandemic has also seen a massive increase in the return of merchandise.

While some of this is inevitable, with consumers wanting to try things out before making a final commitment to purchasing, it is also true that in some cases more accurate product descriptions could help. Among other benefits, fewer returns would lighten the load on the supply chain.

ISO/IEC Guide 14 Products and related services – Information for consumers recognizes that it is very important for consumers, manufacturers and service providers to minimize uncertainty over purchases and contracts. "Those who supply a high standard of product information enhance their commercial reputation and save time and money by reducing enquiries and complaints," the guide says.

It provides guidance on what information prospective purchasers require and expect for products and their related services. Written for anyone involved in preparing information about products and related services, the guide will also benefit consumer product designers, manufacturers, marketers and graphic artists.

The guide is especially useful for standardization experts, consumer protection agencies and regulators.

This document addresses the following: — committees preparing standards for consumer products and related services; — consumer product designers, manufacturers, technical writers, marketers, graphic artists or others engaged in the work of drafting such information; — other bodies such as enforcement agencies or consumer ombudsmen.

Guide 14 is updated regularly to reflect developments in technology. For example, the most recent edition also covers the use of QR codes and RFID tags to identify contents.

It mentions environmental issues associated with the development, use, storage, and disposition of the product or any of its component parts, including recycling.

Other issues covered include risk, sustainability and privacy issues.

ISO/IEC Guide 14 is available here.

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