The final piece in the consumer puzzle

The DIN Consumer Council has high hopes for a new standard that protects consumers and helps them get the most from their purchases.

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Por Barnaby Lewis
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Two of the world's biggest names in standardization, the IEC and the IEEE, joined forces with ISO to update an essential standard for consumers. IEC/IEEE 82079-1, Preparation of information for use (instructions for use) of products — Part 1: Principles and general requirements, will help manufacturers to create clear information for using their products. The ISO member for Germany, DIN, was involved in the creation of IEC/IEEE 82079-1, and its Consumer Council believes the standard has a major role to play in improving consumer confidence and safety.

Dr Gabriela Fleischer sits on DIN's Consumer Council in Berlin. She tells me that they've been aware of the need to improve matters for a while: "Back in 2009 we carried out a comprehensive consumer study that highlighted information for use as consistently falling below expectations". Even when it comes to the basics (language, translations, punctuation, layout and general coherence), many manufacturers fail to get it right. As Gabriela observes, "preparing information for use is not a trivial task and needs careful and comprehensive consideration and attention."

There is also real potential for IEC/IEEE 82079-1 to bring benefits beyond manufacturers and standardizers. Gabriela says, "the standard has proven its value as a solid base for legislators looking to improve consumer protection." For example, it was adopted in April of this year in its entirety by the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization as EN/IEC/IEEE 82079-1. As a result, more than 30 countries are set to implement it as a national standard within six months, highlighting the standard's versatility.

The standard applies to almost every sort of product imaginable, including those used by professionals. Gabriela believes that no manufacturer can afford to ignore the new standard, whatever their sector: "If you manufacture anything, household appliances, software, furniture, toys, audio-visual devices, hand- or power-tools, machinery such as lawnmowers or even medical devices like hearing aids and pacemakers, then this standard is essential to the safe and successful use of your product!"

With many manufacturers going through uncertain times following a decline in consumption, meeting expectations is more important than ever. Supplying easy-to-follow information for use is an essential part of the customer satisfaction puzzle. In the excitement following unboxing a new purchase, many of us shy away from reading the instructions, preferring a mix of intuition and experimentation. That's partly human nature, but in many cases it's the poor quality of the information for use itself that discourages us and prevent us from enjoying products in the way that the manufacturer intended. The jointly developed IEC/IEEE 82079-1 should help change that.

Barnaby Lewis
Barnaby Lewis

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