What does the acronym ANEC mean?

ANEC stands for the "European Association for the Co-ordination of Consumer Representation in Standardisation AISBL". Instead of this long version, ANEC is often described as "The European consumer voice in standardisation".

Our strap line is ‘Raising standards for consumers’.

Why is there a need for ANEC?

Standardisation is a private and not a public activity. Moreover, the consumer expertise needed in the development of European standards is scarce or non-existent in many countries. With the standards development work in CEN & CENELEC based on the contribution of national delegations, ANEC was created to address this national fragmentation by providing one coherent and effective consumer voice at the European level. As such, ANEC is greater than the sum of its national parts.

What kind of organisation is ANEC?

ANEC was established in 1995 as an international non-profit association under Belgian law (AISBL). It is a non-governmental organisation representing the consumer interest in standardisation. It is funded exclusively by the European Union (through the Executive Agency for Health and Consumers) and EFTA. Its Secretariat is based in Brussels.

Whom does ANEC represent?

ANEC represents the collective interests of consumers from EU Member States, EFTA (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) and some candidate accession countries (Croatia, Macedonia (FYROM) and Turkey). Our strategic decisions are based on contributions made through the national consumer organisations in each country to the individual appointed to represent that country in the ANEC General Assembly.

Read more on the structure of ANEC.

What is the mission of ANEC?

ANEC has three main objectives:

  • to represent the consumer interest in the development of European technical standards
  • to represent the consumer interest in the use of European technical standards (including conformity assessment and certification)
  • to represent the consumer interest in the development or revision of European legislation and policies that affect products and services, especially in relation to standardisation.

Why is consumer representation in standardisation important?

Standards affect us all every day and everywhere. Consumer representation is needed to balance the business interests which dominate the standardisation process in the three European Standardisation Organisations (CEN, CENELEC, ETSI), all which are private associations.

It is particularly important that the public interest is reflected in the European Standards ‘mandated’ by the European Commission and EFTA Secretariat to support implementation of the range of Directives that set essential safety requirements for sectoral product groupings (such as toys, machinery, personal protective equipment, mobile phones). In January 2010, the New Legislative Framework (Regulation 765/2008 and Decision 768/2008) for products entered into force. It establishes a common legal framework for industrial products in the form of a toolbox of measures for use in future legislation (market surveillance and the application of the CE marking, definitions of terms commonly used).

Standards are also used to assess the safety of products falling under the General Product Safety Directive (2001/95/EC) such as child care articles. The GPSD is applicable to consumer products that are not covered by specific sector legislation.

On 25 October 2012 the European Parliament and Council of Ministers adopted a new Regulation on European Standardisation (Regulation (EU) No 1025/2012). It provides a legal basis for the funding of the European voice in standardisation until 2020 and sets political expectations for the strengthening of the voice of societal interests in the standards development process. Read more about it and its implications for ANEC here.

How does ANEC contribute to standardisation?

ANEC representatives participate in around 90 Technical Committees (TC) and Working Groups. The work of ANEC representatives is complemented by national consumer representatives serving on other committees and working groups. ANEC also participates as an observer in the governance bodies of CEN, CENELEC and ETSI and in the Technical Boards of CEN and CENELEC. Moreover, we contribute to international standardization.

At the technical level, each ANEC Working Group decides on the priorities in its fields and is responsible for developing a common position for its representatives to take to the technical bodies of the European Standards Organisations.

Isn't ANEC an 'anti-business' organisation?

Not at all. ANEC seeks to complement the business contribution in the development of standards. Knowingly or unknowingly, the proposals made by business interests in the standards development process can undermine the consumer interest, often by focusing on the needs of the mainstream (or ‘average’) consumer to the exclusion of ‘vulnerable consumers’: children, older people and people with disabilities ANEC aims to shape standards so that all consumers can benefit from their application. One excellent example is that of the European Standards for Domestic Appliances (see the reports under the Accessibility and DOMAP sections).

Outside of the standards arena, we were able to help convince the Kellogg Company that the sale of sweets imitating the famous Lego toy brick could confuse very young children and place them at risk. The ANEC Strategy in the years to 2020 seeks to build alliances with business interests to the benefit of business AND the consumer. Our collaboration with Orgalime, the European Engineering Industries Association, has been instrumental in creating a political momentum to increase the effectiveness of market surveillance.

Isn't ANEC simply a 'puppet organisation' of the European Union and EFTA?

Perhaps to the disappointment of some EU and EFTA officials, no! Although ANEC is funded exclusively by both institutions, both take care to recognise our independence. For example, our differences of opinion with the European Commission on the use of a ‘child panel test’ in the European Standard for cigarette lighters are well-known. We also take a very different view of the value of CE Marking from the EFTA Secretariat.

Is ANEC registered as a lobbyist?

Although ANEC is not a commercial lobbyist, part of our mission is to shape the development or revision of European legislation in the consumer interest. Hence ANEC has signed the European Transparency Register (http://europa.eu/transparency-register/) and accepted its Code of Conduct. Our identification number in the Register is 507800799-30.

What are the conditions and benefits of becoming a member of an ANEC Working Group?

In order to fulfil its mission to raise standards of protection and welfare for all consumers, ANEC requires experts who are willing to participate in its Working Groups and, ideally, to represent ANEC in standards development work in its areas of priority: Child Safety, Accessibility, Domestic Appliances, Environment, Digital Society, Energy, Services and Traffic.

Although we are unable to offer a salary or honorarium, we do cover the travel, accommodation and subsistence expenses of our experts in line with the rules laid down by the European Commission and EFTA Secretariat. Above all, we offer the possibility to our experts to influence legislation and technical standards to the benefit of all those in society.

For more information, please contact the ANEC Secretariat.

What is the relationship between ANEC and BEUC?

ANEC has close links with BEUC, the European Consumers’ Organisation (www.beuc.eu), particularly on issues of product and service legislation. Indeed, we are often referred to as ‘sister organisations’. We are also the key members of a project aimed at supporting consumer needs within the Energy-using Products Directive (www.eupconsumer.eu). But the interests of BEUC are more horizontal than those of ANEC (ranging from child obesity to financial services, from mobile roaming charges to consumer redress). Our memberships also differ with BEUC comprising organisational members – sometimes with more than one member from a particular country – compared with the individual national memberships of ANEC.

What is the relationship between ANEC and CI?

Consumers International (CI) is a worldwide federation of consumer organisations with some 240 member organisations in 120 countries. Like BEUC, its scope is horizontal and it places particular emphasis on improving the welfare of consumers in developing countries. In the past, the relationship between ANEC and CI is was governed through a Memorandum of Understanding of 2003, and Implementing Mechanism of 2008, which allowed ANEC experts to carry a common ANEC-CI brief in international standards setting bodies (e.g. ISO, IEC, UNECE).

In May 2013, ANEC became a formal Supporter of CI and the two organisations signed a new agreement, replacing the 2003 MoU. The main areas of cooperation build on the MoU and include knowledge sharing, representation of the consumer interest within international standardisation, as well as promotion of (and support for) each other’s policy and advocacy.

Does ANEC test products?

Although some ANEC members are from organisations involved in comparative testing, ANEC itself does not have its own testing laboratories. ANEC does, however, commission research and testing work to support its positions in the standardisation process. You can find out more about these activities here.

What is CE marking?

In the European Economic Area, it is the responsibility of the manufacturer to check whether his product falls under the scope of EU legislation. If it falls under the scope of certain directives, the affixing of CE Marking is obligatory. CE Marking is addressed to national authorities and declares that the product complies with the safety requirements of the respective EU legislation.

For most consumer products, the manufacturer can self-declare that the product is in conformity. Hence, in the view of ANEC, CE Marking represents no more than a claim by the manufacturer that the product is in compliance. You can find more information on our official position in the ANEC Position Paper on CE Marking ‘Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware’ and the ANEC Leaflet on CE Marking.