Be wary of associations that appoint themselves as regulators

Issue 5 2023 Associations

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

The Chief Operating Officer of the SABS, Lungelo Ntobongwana says: “The SABS is aware of associations in the plumbing, paint and steel industries that are intent on duping the industry that they are the sole industry bodies that have powers, and 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.

“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. 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 by the relevant arm of government or government agency,” explains Ntobongwana.

The SABS itself does not hold regulatory powers, and 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 wherein members pay for membership does not have any more representation or rights in a technical committee in comparison to any other member.

The Standards Act also makes provision for conformity assessment services. Conformity assessment services 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. 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 7400 national standards. Considering the commercial nature of conformity assessment services, the SABS prioritises sectors that are commercially viable or are sponsored,” explains Ntobongwana.

Organisations can email for more information about the SABS catalogue of services.

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