Due to the economic importance of the service sector, the European Commission is keen to eliminate obstacles to the freedom of establishment for service providers and to promote the free movement of services between Member States. In this context, the Commission intends to promote the concept of standardisation, and European voluntary standards and industry charters are explicitly encouraged in the Directive on Services in the Internal Market (2006/123/EC) and in the European Standardisation Regulation (EU) No 1025/2012.
As standards gain more importance in the service sectors, the lack of an overarching legal framework becomes of increasing significance. Such a framework exists in the case of products (e.g. General Product Safety Directive and Product Liability Directive) and, ANEC believes, should also be built for services safety, quality and liability.
The ANEC Services Working Group has identified the following areas as priorities in the sector.
1. Horizontal service issues
The lack of a European overarching legal framework for service safety and liability is of increasing significance to consumers.
With a view both to influencing developments in service standardisation and calling for such a framework, ANEC published a position on service standardisation in 2007, based on the results of its research on service standardisation and related minimum consumer requirements. This research examines the current European regulatory frame for services and shows that core consumer elements to be addressed in service standards include customer satisfaction, complaints handling and redress procedures, information provision, service safety, personnel competence, contracts & billing, and accessibility. Considering that service sectors differ greatly in nature, ANEC does not consider it feasible to develop a horizontal service standard to cover all issues and sectors. Instead, the core elements should be used as a ‘blueprint’ for service standards to ensure a consistent approach across sectors across Europe.
ANEC actively participates in the CEN Strategic Advisory Group on Services (SAGS) to ensure key consumer concerns are addressed in political and strategic discussions related to service standardisation and a possible future related framework.
In SAGS the work currently focuses on the 2013 EC two-steps mandate M/517 for the development of a series of standards addressing horizontal aspects of services. Recognising the above ANEC concerns shared by stakeholders on a horizontal services standard, phase 1 deliverable will consist instead of analysing the need and feasibility of developing a series of standards addressing horizontal aspects of services, while phase 2 deliverable would consist of the effective development of these standards.
2. Health & Beauty and Care Services
Certain private healthcare services are of primary concern to consumers of all ages as these services often entail significant risks to the health and, in particular in the case of surgery, financial stability of the consumer. With the aesthetic services market increasing in Europe and the number of services offered cross-border rising, the need for a regulatory framework and common standards becomes more relevant to ensure the safety and quality of such services. Aspects with a direct impact on the safety of the service include the competence of personnel, hygiene of premises and equipment, and information provision.
Other health-related services, in particular important to the elderly, with an ageing European population, vary from residential care services to services related to technical aids. Furthermore, consumers are increasingly concerned about the quality and safety of care services, such as those provided by beauty salons, tanning bed and aesthetic surgery service providers. On the initiative of the Services WG, an ANEC Project Team on Health, Care and Support Services has been set up in 2012 to operate in conjunction with the horizontal ANEC Services Working Group on health, care and support services and providing expertise to the ANEC Representatives dealing with standardisation in this area (for e.g. CEN TC 403 ‘Aesthetic surgery services’, CEN TC 409 ‘Beauty Salon services’, CEN TC412 ‘Indoor sun exposure services’).
3. Tourism, Sports, and Leisure Services
Due to the increasing mobility of consumers and the potential severity of injuries suffered during the provision of these services, the safety and quality of tourism services are of primary importance to consumers. This is especially true for the more vulnerable groups such as children or older people. In particular, services such as hotel accommodation, diving and skiing, extreme sports and adventure holidays often entail significant cross-border and safety aspects.
From the consumer viewpoint, European and international standards work has so far concentrated on rather peripheral areas of tourism services, and it has been therefore ANEC’s challenge to actively take part in tourism standardisation at the international and European levels to promote more consumer-relevant standardisation. ANEC Services WG collaborates with the Design for All WG in the area of accessible tourism.
Hotel Fire Safety
Hotel fire safety is an issue which many consumers take for granted when travelling, expecting a similar standard of safety from one Member State to another. This may not always be true as studies showed. In particular the evacuation of disabled guests from hotels in case of fire is not guaranteed everywhere. One of the priorities of the ANEC Services WG is to obtain a European legislation on Hotel Fire Safety that would rely on technical standards, while providing guidance to all sorts of hotels in the prevention of fires and safety management. ANEC welcomes that DG SANCO is considering a revision of the recommendation 86/666/ on fire safety in existing hotels and participates to the discussions between Commission and relevant stakeholders with the aim to ensure that gaps highlighted so far are appropriately considered and overcome.
ANEC also participates in CEN CENELEC TC 4 PC ‘Services for fire safety and security systems’, in light of the importance of training of installers and maintenance services in the area of (fire) safety equipment.
4 Services of General Interest (SGIs)
With the increasing trend for liberalisation of many services of broad interest, such as postal services, ensuring high protection to consumers becomes more important. Many SGIs play an essential role in the quality of life of citizens, and attention should be paid to ensure that such services, despite the requirement of affordability, do not become basic, leading to a decrease in quality, accessibility, or safety of the service.
ANEC has been actively involved in postal services standardization in CEN TC 331 Postal services, its WG1 on ‘Quality of Services’ and WG5 on revision of EN 13724 ‘Apertures of letter boxes and letter plates’ for many years.
European standards related to postal services underpin Directive 2008/06/EC on Postal Services which amended the initial Directive 97/67/EC. ANEC believes quality-of-service-levels in the postal sector should be measured in a comparable way across companies and countries. This includes damages and complaints procedures. We are also concerned that the need for new parcel-boxes caused by the explosive growth of internet-trade will not be met with a supply of standardized boxes at affordable prices.
The Commission’s third Standards Mandate (M/428) in the field of postal services and equipment takes on five of ANEC’s proposals for possible new work items on quality of postal services, and also requests that close cooperation with customers is ensured. ANEC welcomed these developments and the launch of related standardisation activities in 2013.
Customer contact centres (call centres)
ANEC actively participated in the development of EN 15838 on ‘customer contact centre quality’ published in November 2009. ANEC supported its adoption, we were however concerned that the standard focuses only on setting requirements for the contract and relation between the customer contact centre and the contracting company. ANEC therefore called for a follow-up standard, setting requirements for the contracting company (service provider) - consumer relation to be developed.
Following a proposal of ISO COPOLCO (Committee on Consumer Policy) - to which ANEC expressed its support - a proposal to develop an international standard on customer contact centres was approved. ANEC nominated a representative to work on the ISO PC 273 ‘customer contact centres’ standard and looks forward to this work.
ANEC is represented in:
‘Strategic Advisory Group on Services’ (SAGS), previously CEN BT WG 163 ‘Services standardisation’
CEN TC 331 ‘Postal Services’
CEN TC 331 WG 1 ‘Quality of postal services’ CEN TC 331 WG 5 ‘Letter boxes’
ISO TC 92 ‘Fire safety’ WG 8 for a technical report on fire safety statistical data (TBC)
CEN CENELEC TC 4 PC ‘Services for fire safety and security systems’
ICRT Health Topic Group (monitored)
CEN TC 329 ‘Tourism services’ (monitored)
CEN TC 403 PC ‘Aesthetic Surgery and aesthetic non-surgical medical services’
CEN TC 409 ‘Beauty Salon Services’
CEN TC 412 PC ‘Indoor sun exposure services’
CEN Workshop 68 ‘Quality criteria health checks’ (monitored)