Some British companies seeking ISO 9000 quality assurance have paid for certificates which are not recognised by the Department of Trade and Industry, quality standards experts claimed this week.
Several of the UK’s 94 quality certification bodies have not been accredited by the Government-approved United Kingdom Accreditation Service. They are still legally permitted to issue ISO certificates, but these are not recognised by the DTI’s Quality Assurance Register and do not permit the company to use the official ISO 9000 stamp.
Some non-approved certifiers are failing to give their clients the facts, according to a UKAS spokeswoman. `The onus is on individual companies to find out whether a certifier is accredited or not. Frequently they haven’t heard of UKAS until the work has been done and one of their customers asks why they don’t have our approval,’ she said.
Some unaccredited certifiers issue quality manuals which take little account of an individual company’s systems and processes, according to Tim Inman, chief executive of the Association of British Certification Bodies. `The damage is mainly done to clients who think they are getting a Government-approved service but aren’t,’ he said.
The ABCB estimates that around 10,000 of quality management certificates worldwide are issued by non-accredited bodies – around 5% of the total.
Cost is one factor for companies choosing non-UKAS certifiers. Some charge medium-sized firms around £225 for an annual assessment – about half as much as for a UKAS-registered certifier.
Non-UKAS certifiers say they are increasing choice, and are regulated by another organisation, the Accreditation Service for Certifying Bodies (Europe), which is not recognised by the DTI.
Stephen Feltham, chief executive of ASCBE, said non-UKAS certifiers were not obliged to tell customers about their Government-approved rivals. `You don’t go to a Vauxhall garage and expect them to tell you about the Ford garage down the road,’ he said.