Information Communications Technologies (ICT) products and services - such as mobile phones and the Internet - play an increasingly essential role in consumers everyday lives, from shopping on-line to listening to music. However, although they have the potential to improve consumer welfare by making a greater range of products and services available, new technologies pose several challenges in terms of protection of traditional consumer rights in an on-line environment such as private data protection and accessibility by most vulnerable consumers such as elderly people. As a consequence, it is essential that the ICT standardisation processes, both formal and non-formal, ensure full and effective consumer participation in order to take consumer requirements into account.
The European Commission e-Inclusion Communication, published in November 2007, recognised that there was strong evidence that voluntary mainstreaming of accessibility in goods and services had not led to significant progress and, in particular, that the market had failed to ensure the accessibility of ICT products and services consumers expect. Binding legislation and standards should be seen as complementary instruments as the legislation should set accessibility requirements with the standards setting specific technical requirements.
This is the main message voiced in two joint ANEC/EDF positions papers on eAccessibility from December 2007 and on web and eAccessibility legislation from July 2008. In February 2009, ANEC and EDF decided to join forces with AGE, the European Older People’s Platform, in order to reiterate the call for eAccessibility legislation (AGE/ANEC/EDF joint position on EC communication on eAccessibility).
In June 2011, we successfully launched our joint campaign “Access denied”.
As more and more services are delivered online, because it is cost effective to do so, inaccessible websites contribute to increase the ‘digital divide’. Meanwhile, those who need assistive technology or other help to access websites continue to be denied access to public services and basic services provided online such as education, health, social protection, employment, transport, banking, housing, and so on.
This is unacceptable discrimination!
AGE Platform Europe, ANEC, EBU, EDF, four leading European organisations, have joined forces to call on the European Commission to make a legislative proposal that delivers web accessibility for all by 2015.
In December 2012, ANEC welcomed the proposal by the European Commission for mandatory provisions on web-accessibility as it took into account many of our suggestions about the use of standards and monitoring of implementation. However we regret the limited scope of the Commission proposal as only public sector web-sites are covered, while we suggested that the scope should be as wide as possible in order to cover websites delivering a wide range of basic services that are of public interest (e.g: postal services, energy, transport, water). It will be up to the European co-legislators (Parliament and Council) to decide about the final scope and text of the directive. In March 2013, ANEC issued a position paper with our detailed suggestions, as well as a leaflet summarising our position.
On 26 October 2016, ANEC welcomed in a press release the adoption by the European Parliament of a Directive on the accessibility of Public Sector Bodies’ websites and apps, which aims to ensure access to on-line public services to all consumers, regardless of their age or ability. The Parliament, in agreement with the Council, made significant improvements to the original Commission proposal issued in 2012, in terms of the websites covered and enforcement provisions, as well as the inclusion of access from a handheld mobile device and mobile apps. These improvements are largely in line with ANEC’s position .
The adoption of the directive brings to a close several years of intensive work by ANEC and its partners in the disability movement, in campaigning for mandatory web-accessibility legislation . “80 million people with disabilities, 150 million people aged over 50, are among the many consumers who will benefit from this legislation”, remarked ANEC Secretary-General, Stephen Russell.
Currently, less than one third of public websites are accessible, while over 60 % of the European population accesses the Internet every day. Many citizens, especially persons with disabilities and older people, are excluded from taking full advantage of the Internet since the websites are not properly designed for them. The European Parliament has understood that it is certainly feasible to change this situation by following the worldwide acknowledged accessibility guidelines which are already incorporated in a European Standard: EN 301 549 from Mandate M/376. With Mandate M/376, the European Commission had requested the development of a series of European standards on accessibility requirements for the public procurement of ICT products and services. ANEC participated in the development of these standards (see below), and will further contribute to their update to include apps.
ANEC now calls on Member States, who now have 21 months to transpose the text of the Directive into their national legislation, to ensure timely implementation of the directive so that Europe can deliver for its citizens.
This is a joint priority of the ANEC Digital Society and Accessibility Groups. To learn more about the ‘Access Denied’ campaign and the latest developments, please visit our ‘Accessibility’ page.
The first European Standard for accessible ICT products and services (M/376)
In 2014, ANEC welcomed the adoption of EN 301 549 “Accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in the Europe” and a series of supporting Technical Reports. The standard was drafted by the CEN/CENELEC/ETSI Joint Working Group, ‘eAccessibility under Mandate M/376’ as part of Phase II of the mandate to which ANEC participated. The set of functional European accessibility requirements for the procurement of products and services in the ICT domain will create incentives for manufacturers to develop and offer accessible devices, so benefitting consumers with disabilities and older consumers. It will also aid harmonisation of e-accessibility in the internal market now that the directive on the accessibility of the websites of public sector bodies is adopted (see above).
The standard EN 301 549 and technical reports are available on the ETSI website. Following the publication of the EN and the related technical reports, CEN, CENELEC and ETSI have developed an Accessible ICT Procurement Toolkit, which is also available online.
All consumers should be able to participate in the Information Society and reap its benefits. The EU rules for e-Communications therefore provide a regulatory framework supporting universal service requirements based on access to the public telephone network. However, the growth of internet-based services, such as Voice over Internet, represents a challenge for regulators. It is therefore to be expected that the role of standardisation will increase in order to ensure that consumers interests such as safety, quality of service and accessibility are adequately guaranteed in the new environment.
New Radio Equipment Directive
In March 2014, the European Parliament voted to make the interoperability of mobile phones and other devices with universal chargers an essential requirement of the Radio Equipment Directive (RED) (2014/53/EU), a decision in line with the ANEC position. The proposal was later adopted by the Council on 16 April 2014 and the Radio Equipment Directive was published in the OJEU in May 2014.
ANEC is pleased that the review of the Directive by the Commission will cover consumer protection and not only the creation of an open and competitive market for radio equipment in the EU. In November 2014, ANEC commented on the draft Standardisation mandate/request on the RED stressing the importance for standards to refer to the “foreseeable behaviour” of consumers. We are pleased that our proposal was reflected in the Directive, as consumers can only be protected effectively if their foreseeable behaviours are taken into account by manufacturers in the design of products.
The Radio Equipment Directive will be applicable from 13 June 2016.
Human exposure to electromagnetic fields
The development of harmonised standards in the framework of the Council Recommendation (1999/519/EC) on the exposure of the general public to electromagnetic fields, the Low Voltage Directive (2006/95/EC) and the Radio and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Directive (1999/5/EC)(see above), is of paramount importance for consumers to ensure that exposure levels are translated into emission requirements of products. Mobile phones and radio transmitters fall within this area.
Safety of IT audio-video equipment
Television sets, computers, mobile phones and music players are used by consumers of all ages everyday. It is therefore essential that those products are safe when they are used by consumers. The term "safety" applies both in the sense of immediate physical risks of human injury, or damage to health, such as in the case of noise exposure level of music players, and through the indirect consequences that can arise from other sources of risk such as chemicals.
Near Field Communication (NFC) technologies such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), exponentially increase the possibilities of tracing and tracking consumers. The multiplication of authentification and authorisation mechanisms - such as readers and contact-less cards – is everywhere, from the workplace to public transports networks. ANEC believes there is a need for private data handling to be performed in a clear, legal and standardised framework and with absolute respect for individual privacy and accessibility (see section below on RFID).
The European Commission proposed a standardisation request/mandate in support of the implementation of privacy management in the design and development and in the production and service provision processes of security technologies, which was approved in October 2014.
The aim of M/530, “Standards for privacy & personal data protection management”, is for manufacturers & providers to manage privacy & personal data protection issues through privacy-by-design.
In 2014 ANEC supported approval of the mandate, as we believe standards can be used to protect consumer personal data through privacy-by-design. At the beginning of 2015, ANEC joined CEN-CENELEC JWG 8 “Privacy Management in products and services”, set up to execute M/530.
In 2015, ANEC released the following guidance material to assist consumer representatives in standardisation committees to properly address personal data protection:
- ANEC Pocket Guide “Overview of Privacy Guidance for Consumer Representatives in standards technical committees. Key Principles”
- ANEC Pocket Guide “Overview of Privacy Guidance for members of standards technical committees who are Consumer Representatives: Key Principles for Digital Device Privacy Impact Assessment”
- ANEC Pocket Guide “Using Consumer Data: Consumer Representatives Guide on Privacy”
- ANEC Pocket Guide for Representatives “Using Consumer Data. Data transfer, trading and privacy”
- ANEC Consumer Representatives Guidance "Domestic privacy and the privacy of digitally connected devices"
In 2014 ANEC joined the CEN-CENELEC-ETSI Coordination Group on Smart and Sustainable Cities and Communities (SSCC-CG). For consumers, it is important to participate in the use of information and communication technologies ICTs, social and environmental capital in supporting city development and competitiveness, and especially in terms of protection of their rights as citizens in an increasingly interconnected environment.
In January 2015, we supported the approval of the final report of the CEN-CENELEC-ETSI Smart and Sustainable Cities and Communities Co-ordination Group (SSCC-CG) and its recommendations to the Technical Boards of CEN and CENELEC.
ANEC is represented in:
- CEN TC 224 – ‘Personal identification and related personal devices with secure element, systems, operations and privacy in a multi sectorial environment’
- CEN TC 224 WG 6 - ‘User interface’
- CEN TC 224 WG 15 - ‘European Citizen Cards’ • CEN TC 224 WG 18- 'Interoperability of biometric recorded data'
- CEN TC 225 'AIDC Technologies'
- CEN TC 225 WG 5 - 'RFID, RTLS and on board sensors'
- CEN TC 225 WG 6 ‘Internet of Things – Identification, Data Capture and Edge Technologies’
- CENELEC TC 106x 'Electromagnetic fields'
- CENELEC TC 108x 'Safety of audio-video equipment'
- CENELEC TC 108 WG 3 'Personal Music Players (PMPs) (M/452)'
- IEC TC 108 'Safety of electronic equipment within the field of audio/video, information technology and communication technology'
- IEC TC 108 WG 11 'Particular safety requirements for equipment to be connected to paired conductor communication networks'
- ETSI TC Human Factors
- ETSI Special Task Force 488 ‘Recommendations to allow people with cognitive disabilities to exploit the potential of mobile technologies’
- CEN/CLC Joint Working Group on eAccessibility (2nd phase M/376)
- CEN-CENELEC Joint Working Group 8 ‘Privacy management in products & services’
- CEN-CENELEC-ETSI Coordination Group 'Smart and Sustainable Cities and Communities' (SSCC-CG)
ANEC was proud to see the approval in December 2012 of CEN/TS 16080 "Internet Content and communications filtering software and services". The standard was developed by CEN/TC 365 "Internet Filters" based on a proposal made by ANEC further to an ANEC R&T project of 2006.
In 2005, ANEC commissioned a study, “The standard requirements for Internet filtering tools”. The aim of this study was to investigate to what extent unsolicited commercial communications (SPAM) and Internet content filters should be testable and comparable in order to help consumers in their purchasing decisions. Performance standards for Internet filtering products and services were identified as helpful in both ensuring product transparency and aiding choice. The protection of consumers (and especially children) was intended to be the main objective of this work.
On 12 May 2009, the European Commission adopted a Recommendation on privacy and security aspects of RFID which implements the “opt-in” principle. Hence the Commission backed ANEC’s long-standing request for consumers not to be obliged to ask for RFID tags on a product to be deactivated in order to avoid tracking or profiling (opt-in regime). Deactivation must be done by default if consumers are to trust commercial use of RFID. ANEC was also pleased with the Recommendation’s provision calling for a unified RFID sign to be developed by the European Standards Organisations as we believe consumers should be told of the presence of an RFID tag by an understandable sign, accessible to all consumers.
The European Commission also issued a standardisation mandate to request the European Standards Organisations to develop standards on data protection, privacy and information security aspects of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) applications. ANEC was able to influence the content of the mandate as far as “privacy by design” is concerned with the results of a 2007 research study on RFID standards, commissioned by ANEC, (visit our Technical Studies page).
In July 2009, ANEC welcomed the European Commission Communication on the ‘Internet of things - An action plan for Europe’ as it fully takes on board consumer demands that the “Internet of Things (IoT)” is an “Internet for people”. Internet of Things is a paradigm where novel applications combine mainly wireless, physical objects that can be located and can communicate with each other. ANEC, which has been working jointly with BEUC on this issue, believes that the Internet of Things needs to be built in such a way as to ensure easy and safe user control. Consumers need confidence to fully embrace the Internet of Things in order to enjoy its potential benefits and avoid any risks to their security and privacy.
In June 2010, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution on Internet of Things in response to the European Commission Communication of 18 June 2009 on the "Internet of Things – An action plan for Europe" (COM(2009) 278final). ANEC welcomed very much the Resolution as MEPs expressly call for the European Commission to further assess many of ANEC’s requests such as the impact on health of radio waves and other means of enabling identification technologies; the right to "chip silence", which provides empowerment and user control and the environmental impact of the chips and of their recycling, among others. In addition, the Parliament stressed that “the consumer has the right to privacy by opt-in and/or privacy by design, notably through the use of automatic tag disablement at the point of sale, unless the consumer expressly agrees otherwise” (section 16). And that it “Believes that the IoT encompasses many benefits for people with disabilities and may be a way to meet the needs of an ageing population and provide assertive care services”.
In 2012, the European Commission published its proposal for the revision of Data Protection Directive (45/96). ANEC welcomes the proposal for a General Data Protection Regulation with the aim to strengthen the personal data protection of all consumers, including children, as it reflects many of our points such as privacy by design and by default.
In 2014, ANEC welcomed the adoption of European standards on the procedures and logo for the protection of consumers personal data when Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips are used. According to the standards, consumers should be provided with clear and simple information so that they can understand if their personal data is to be used; the type of data that is to be collected (such as name, address or date of birth) and for what purpose. They should also be provided with labelling clearly identifying the devices that 'read' the information stored in smart chips, and a contact point for more information. Before using RFID technology, businesses should conduct privacy & data protection impact assessments, reviewed by data protection authorities, to assess the risks to privacy consumers face.
Young consumers frequently listen to music by using personal music players and radio communication devices including such a facility. It is essential to ensure that these devices do not cause quantifiable health risks, in particular unforeseen hearing loss or hearing impairment.
In April 2008, ANEC commented on the draft international safety standard for IT and Audio/Video equipment (IEC 108/276/CDV) noting that the sound level of 118dBA – to 125dBA for long term exposure (>0,5s) is extremely high but below the barrier of pain. A sound pressure at such high level (118 dBA – 125dBA) can result in hearing damage and even hearing loss. The requirements of a safety standard should avoid such injuries.
The draft standard also proposed that equipment instructions should require a general warning along with a warning label on the product. However, ANEC believes that the users of portable sound systems are often children or young adults who often do not understand or respond well to cautionary advice. Hence in order to protect the users of portable sound systems from hearing damage, a technical limitation of sound pressure is necessary. ANEC’s position is confirmed by scientists who conclude that 5-10% of personal music players listeners risk permanent hearing loss within 5 years due to the excessive use of personal music player. ANEC called for sound levels to be limited by default settings in personal music players at a European Commission conference held on 27 January 2009 in Brussels. ANEC also proposed that the role of headphones and insert earpieces earphones in protecting consumers should be better assessed. For example, the anti-noise function, of noise-cancelling headphones can allow consumers to enjoy listening to music at lower sound levels without losing the “groove” (ANEC position paper on the Safety of Music Players).
In June 2009, the European Commission issued a standardisation mandate to develop and revise standards for the safety of personal music players (PMPs). Although ANEC supports the mandate, as it reflects our request to have safe sound limits by default, we believe two types of sound limit are needed (one absolute, the other time dependent). In addition to limits related to time-exposure, ANEC asks for a sound limit of 89 dB(A) to be the maximum permitted by default in PMPs, with secured access to a second maximum of 100 dB(A). In the case of PMPs designed to appeal to children, we wish to see the maximum sound level to be fixed below a level where the probability of risking hearing loss is considered negligible. (please see our one pager on PMPs and our leaflet on PMPs).
In 2011, we welcomed very much the approval of new standards for Personal Music Players (EN 60065:2002/A12:2011 "Audio, video and similar electronic apparatus - Safety requirements" and EN 60950-1:2006/A12:2011 "Information technology equipment - Safety -- Part 1: General requirements"). The approach adopted is based on an average sound pressure limit of 85 dBA. This is a level that is considered to be safe under all conditions of use. Nevertheless, there is the possibility for consumers to choose to override the limit so that the level can be increased up to a maximum average of 100 dBA. In this case, users are informed by warnings, repeated after every 20 hours of listening time, about the risks of listening music at such a high volume. Lower limits are prescribed for PMPs for children. The 85 dBA and 100 dBA limits are applicable as of 2013.