Be wary of self-appointed watchdogs 

Be wary of self-appointed watchdogs 

The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) has noticed an increasing trend. Some associations and industry bodies are trying to derail the credibility of the SABS and create confusion by publishing misleading information about their authority to regulate or govern certain industries.

“The SABS is aware of associations in the plumbing, paint, and steel industries that are intent on duping the industry, claiming that they are the sole industry bodies that have powers. Usually, these claims are further backed by unfounded claims about the capabilities of the SABS. While competition is healthy for industrial development, competitors that rely on making false claims about the SABS and creating illegal market barriers cannot be allowed, and the SABS will continue to pursue legal action against such organisations,” says SABS chief operating officer Lungelo Ntobongwana.

“Some organisations create unfair technical barriers to trade by creating illegitimate requirements for the purposes of profiting from unknowing consumers and suppliers. When fee or subscription-based associations claim to have authority or to offer competitive advantages, consumers need to be wary about such associations,” he continues. “Requirements for professional competencies, compulsory accreditation, product testing, certification, and/or any other form of conformity assessment will be published via a regulation or specification via the relevant arm of government or government agency.”

The SABS itself does not hold regulatory powers; such authority resides in various government departments and state-owned entities. The SABS is mandated to develop, maintain, and promote national standards through the Standards Act, No 8 of 2008. National standards are developed through technical committees, which comprise associations, industry bodies, academics, organisations, and individuals on a voluntary basis. It is important to note that an association with paid membership does not have any more representation or rights in a technical committee compared to any other member.

The Standards Act also makes provision for conformity assessment services. These include testing, certification, verification, and inspection services, which are offered through accredited services and are available through a multitude of service providers, including the SABS.

“The SABS offers conformity assessment and certification services on a commercial basis and is subject to the conditions of accreditation, in that it is subject to auditing by the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) to ensure that the SABS can deliver to high quality standards,” explains Ntobongwana. “It is important to note that while the SABS has the largest suite of testing laboratories in Southern Africa, it does not have the capacity to test and certify to all 7,400 national standards. Considering the commercial nature of conformity assessment services, the SABS prioritises sectors that are commercially viable or are sponsored.”

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