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 lack of a European overarching legal framework for service safety and liability is of increasing significance to consumers. The basis of ANEC work both influencing developments in service standardisation and calling for a EU legal framework, is found on ANEC , research on service standardisation and related minimum consumer requirements carried out in 2007 and the resulting position on service standardisation. This research examined the 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 the future strategy to address European standardization in the area of services. The strategy will cover top trends affecting the services sector as well as challenges in European services standardisation. It will also provide a typology of service standards and criteria to identify sectors with potential for service standardisation.
In SAGS the work currently focuses on the 2013 EC two-steps standardisation 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 consisted instead of analysing the need and feasibility of developing a series of standards addressing horizontal aspects of services. The second phase of M/517 consists with the effective development of a series of standards capable of flexible application across a wide range of services, is now dealt with by CEN TC 447 which is developing (a) standard(s) on topics such as procurement and pre-contract information provision, contracts and performance assessment.
In line with the above activities, ANEC also nominated an ANEC Representative in the ISO COPOLCO Working Group 18 on Services set up in 2015. The group has responsibility both for coordinating generic services initiatives and maintaining ISO/IEC Guide 76 ‘Development of service standards – Recommendations for addressing consumer issues’.
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. Aspects with a direct impact on the safety of the service include the competence of personnel, hygiene of premises and equipment, and information provision at all stages of the service.
An ANEC Project Team on Health, Care and Support Services operates since 2012 in conjunction with the horizontal ANEC Services Working Group to develop ANEC members position on health, care and support services and providing expertise to the ANEC Representatives dealing with standardisation activities in this area. In light of CEN members increasingly addressing health care related issues in European standards, ANEC has ensured wherever possible the consumer voice was heard in relevant standardisation activities.
At a horizontal level, ANEC is active in the CEN Healthcare Services Focus Group, established following the development of CEN strategy in the healthcare services area. The group acts in support of CEN Technical Board and relevant technical bodies in exploring ways and means for sustaining - through standardisation - the quality, efficiency and safety of complex healthcare systems throughout Europe.
More sectorial activities of ANEC in the healthcare and wellbeing services area have ranged from aesthetic surgical and non-surgical care to social care services.
A specific area that has occupied the scene of health care related European standardisation for long is that of aesthetic surgery interventions and non-surgical aesthetic services.
ANEC has been representing the consumer voice in CEN TC 403 ‘Aesthetic Surgery and aesthetic non-surgical medical services’ and in CEN TC 409 ‘Beauty Salon services’ as well as in CEN TC 412 ‘Indoor UV exposure’. Consumers are increasingly concerned about the quality and safety of care services, such as those provided by aesthetic surgery service providers or wellbeing services provides in beauty salons or solaria.
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.
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. Building on the experience from the earlier activities in CEN/TC 385 PC, which developed CEN/TS 16118 “Sheltered housing - Requirements for services for older people provided in a sheltered housing scheme”, ANEC has issued in 2013 a study on ‘Models of special accommodation for older people across Europe’. Although the first standardisation activities that resulted from CEN TC 385 PC proved complex, more recently the new CEN Technical Committee 449 ‘Quality of care for elderly people in ordinary or residential care facilities’ and CEN TC 450 ‘Minimum requirements of patient involvement in person-centred care’ attempting to address the quality of these services in a comprehensive manner with the patient and consumer at the heart of their focus.
ANEC has also participated in CEN TC 431 “Service Chain for Social Care Alarms”. We expect the CEN work to have a strong focus on consumers, aiming to give them an improved level of quality of life by enabling them to stay longer in their own homes and remain independent.
ANEC also follows the standardisation related to funeral services in CEN TC 448. A service that is provided at a very vulnerable time in the life of any consumer and thus where consumer protection is key.
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.
ANEC conducted a study on European cross-border travel and tourism - Learning from consumer experiences and complaints (published in January 2014) to explore the consumer complaints on problems occurred when using EU cross-border tourism services. The areas examined were car rental, accommodation, plane, train and boat travel. ANEC leaflet: Key Facts on European cross-border complaints gives an overview of the findings. Following the results of this investigation, the ANEC Services WG developed the ANEC position paper: How can we make travel in the EU better for consumers?. 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.
Since 2013, ANEC participates in standardisation activities in CEN TC 136 WG 2 on Fitness centres, as this topic tackles various issues relevant for the European consumer, such as limited diversity of requirements and cross-border aspects.
Tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors worldwide. However, for many people, including vulnerable persons with special needs, travelling is often a challenging exercise, as they face various barriers in many travel destinations. ANEC Services WG therefore collaborates with the Accessibility WG in the area of accessible tourism and nominated an expert for ISO TC 228 WG 14 'Accessible tourism', to work on an International Standard on “Accessible Tourism for All” setting guidelines for tourism planning and destination management.
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 had welcomed that DG SANCO was considering a revision of the recommendation 86/666/ on fire safety in existing hotels and participated to the discussions between Commission and relevant stakeholders with the aim to ensure that gaps highlighted so far are appropriately considered and overcome. Unfortunately there has been no political will for further European action in the area. ANEC continues collaborating with other stakeholders campaigning for the setting up of a pan-European accident database as a first minimum step in the area. ANEC also participated 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. ANEC welcomed the publication of the related standard in 2016.
The findings from ANEC study on consumer complaints when travelling cross border also showed the complaints and bad experiences of consumers with boat travel. As a consequence, the Services WG engaged in the expert group on passenger ship safety issued by the EC Directorate General DG Mobility and Transport MOVE, representing the interests of passengers travelling on board passenger ships in EU waters.
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.
The ‘Keep me posted EU campaign’ promotes the citizen’s right to choose how they receive important information such as tax forms, election documents, bills and statements from service providers without any disadvantage. It is a pro-choice campaign wanting to promote inclusion of vulnerable consumers at European level. The campaign is inspired by the UK campaign, ‘Keep Me Posted UK’, and is directed towards the European Institutions.
The campaign gathers support from ANEC, as well as other consumer groups and charities, representing citizens that may be disadvantaged by a lack of choice or simply do not agree with it.
The consumer survey carried out for the ANEC Services 2013 Technical study showed other service aspects consumers complain about in services areas other than the main problematic tourism and travel related services and interesting observations related to the increasing use of online shopping services. Moreover, the European Commission has been promoting cross border shopping online and enhancing consumer rights.
In 2015 ANEC commissioned the Services technical study “Collection of complaints data on online shopping services” to collect data on practical examples of consumer complaints in the consumer services area with a special attention to cross border data with a view to provide ANEC representatives in the Technical Committees (TCs) related to services standardization with useful evidence in meetings and when defending ANEC views in the services area.
In May 2016 as part of the European Digital Single Market and Single Market strategies, the European Commission published a plan to boost e-commerce by tackling geoblocking, making cross-border parcel delivery more affordable and efficient and promoting customer trust through better protection and enforcement. Further to the Proposal for a Regulation on cross-border parcel delivery services (mentioned under Postal Services above) in the same context, further to the collection of stakeholders’ feedback to the public consultation on the regulatory environment for platforms, online intermediaries, data and cloud computing and the collaborative economy to which ANEC also gave its input at the beginning of 2016, the Commission issued a Communication on online platforms and the Digital Single Market underpinned by a Staff working document on online platforms and the Digital Single Market formulating the Commission's policy approach to online platforms and identifying areas where action or further assessment may be necessary.
In light of ANEC/Consumers International collaboration in ISO TC 290 ‘Online Reputation’ and its WG 1 ‘online consumer reviews’ ANEC/CI gave input to the EU debate on online platfors in ANEC/CI Statement. Cross border e-commerce - How international standards can help transparency of online platforms to raise awareness on the standards under development.
ANEC also continues following the European policy developments in the area of collaborative economy that result from the European Commission Guidance and policy recommendations for the collaborative economy.
ANEC actively participated in the development of EN 15838:2009 on ‘customer contact centre quality’. 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 participated and welcomed the international standards developed in ISO PC 273 ‘customer contact centres’ standard further to the proposal of ISO COPOLCO (Committee on Consumer Policy). It is expected the international standards will supersede the European document EN 15838.
Although the ANEC Financial Services PT has been dormant for several years, attention to the developments related to payments in the single market is drawn also from our research activities carried out on consumer complaints in the travel area and on online shopping. ANEC consults and monitor policy developments in the area through its sister organisation BEUC. ANEC also monitors and participates where relevant in Consumer International and ISO COPOLCO consultations on consumer concerns related to financial services standards and gave its support with lobbying activities for the approval of the ISO standard on mobile payments in 2016.
ANEC participates in the European Payments Council (EPC) Scheme End User Forum (SEUF). The European Payments Council represents payment service providers, and aims at supporting and promoting European payments integration and development, notably the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). Members were consulted and agreed on the interest in participating in the EPC SEUF Forum. An ANEC representative was nominated in 2016 and attended a meeting of the Forum to bring the consumer perspective.
ANEC services WG is consulted in the work done by the Accessibility and Digital Society WG on Pay-able, a “Platform for a better payment experience: accessible POS terminals for all.
ANEC also monitors and reacts to consumer issues in CEN TC 445 Digital information Interchange in the Insurance Industry’, set up to work on standardisation in the field of electronic business processes and relevant data in the European insurance industry, which connect insurance companies with their customers and their market partners.
ANEC is represented in:
• ‘CEN SA Strategic Advisory Group on Services’ (SAGS)
• CEN TC 136 ‘Sports, playground and other recreational facilities and equipment’ WG 2 'Fitness centres'
• CEN TC 331 ‘Postal Services’
• 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 431 'Service Chain for Social Care Alarms'
• CEN TC 445 ‘Business Processes in the Insurance Industry’
• CEN TC 447 ‘Services - Procurement, contracts and performance assessment
• CEN TC 448 ‘Funeral services’
• CEN TC 449 ‘Quality of care for elderly people in ordinary or residential care facilities’
• CEN/TC 450 ‘Minimum requirements of patient involvement in person-centred care’
• CEN Healthcare Services Focus Group
• CEN CENELEC TC 4 PC ‘Services for fire safety and security systems’
• ISO TC 92 ‘Fire Safety’ WG 8 ‘Fire terms and definitions’ (Liaison member)
• ISO TC 228 ‘Tourism and related services’, WG 2 ‘Health tourism services’, WG 14 'Accessible tourism'
• ISO PC 273 ‘Customer contact centres services’
• ISO TC 290 'Online reputation' and its WG1 'Online reviews'
• ISO COPOLCO WG 18 ‘Services’
• European Payments Council Scheme End-User Forum
• DG MOVE Passenger Ship Safety Expert Sub Group
ANEC will follow up any new activities in technical bodies where we have been involved and work was completed:
- CEN CENELEC TC 4 PC ‘Services for fire safety and security systems’
- CEN TC 412 PC ‘Indoor sun exposure services’
- CEN Workshop 68 ‘Quality criteria health checks’
On 1 March, MEPs Anderson and Borzan hosted a debate on the proposed Regulation on cross-border parcel delivery services, part of a package to boost e-commerce. The MEPs are the EP Rapporteurs for the TRAN and IMCO committees on the proposal which aims at achieving more efficiency, transparency on delivery times, and affordable prices.
The event allowed postal operators and stakeholders to give their views on the proposal. ANEC President, Arnold Pindar, gave the consumer perspective reflecting ANEC research. We believe lower prices for consumers can be expected to result from competition but this should not result in a decrease in the quality of services provided nor in an uneven playing field for operators.
Mr Pindar confirmed consumer confidence would benefit from improved requirements for transparent and comparable information on available delivery options; more guidance on procedures for damage, loss of goods, delays and returns, and complaints handling. He also explained the role standards should play in delivering these benefits.
On 24 November, a call for action for an EU fire-safety strategy was published, signed by several stakeholders under the leadership of Fire Safe Europe. ANEC welcomes the initiative and congratulates Fire Safe Europe for taking the lead in defining the policies that need to be coordinated in an holistic way to achieve better fire safety at European level.
ANEC Secretary-General, Stephen Russell, remarked, “All consumers should benefit from common essential safety requirements across Europe, with risk assessment ensuring that measures are proportionate and appropriate. Further to our call for a holistic strategy for sustainable construction, we have been seeking legislation in the area of (tourism) service safety for several years now. Our view is that staff training, fire safety management and emergency planning are particular aspects that need to be strengthened in any fresh regulatory approach. Market surveillance and enforcement is also crucial”.
Moreover, ANEC stresses a systematic approach to address hazardous chemicals in products relevant to consumers becomes even more urgent in the debate on sustainable and safe buildings. Going beyond the paper issued by FESU , ANEC believes that a comprehensive discussion on how to avoid toxic flame retardants and to find safer substitutes is necessary, especially where safety cannot be ensured otherwise e.g. by using materials which are inherently fireproof.