What is ANEC?
ANEC is the European consumer voice in standardisation. This means we represent the European consumer interest in the creation of technical standards, especially those developed to support the implementation of European laws and public policies. An introduction to ANEC and its role in standardisation can be found in our brochure “What we do for you”.
Although that may not sound important or interesting, standards provide the nuts and bolts of society. Ever thought why your mobile phone works away from home? Yes, European standards. Ever thought why you need to carry a bag full of electrical adaptors when you travel abroad? That’s right - a lack of European standards!
But standards address more than issues of interoperability for consumers.
The use of standards can also:
raise consumer protection and reduce the risk of accidents
help promote environmental protection and sustainability
make the quality of services more consistent
ensure people of all ages and abilities have equal access to products and services
serve to underpin the digital age and the information society
ANEC participates principally through its voluntary experts in the standards development work of the three European Standardisation Organisations (ESOs) recognised by the European Union and EFTA:
However, we also participate in other organisations which develop standards whose use could directly or indirectly affect the European consumer, including the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), as well as UNECE (the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe), in which ANEC participates under the umbrella of Consumers International in the UNECE GRSP Informal Group on Child Restraint Systems. In total, ANEC participates in more than 155 technical bodies of the European and international standards organisations.
ANEC also has an interest in the application of standards, including market surveillance and enforcement, accreditation and conformity assessment schemes. We also seek to influence the development or revision of European legislation related to products and services that is likely to affect the consumer, especially where reference is made to standards.
The representation of consumers in European standardisation is a public interest activity, and the representative European association is appointed only after regular public calls for tender. It is an activity dependent upon European public funding. Hence ANEC is financed by the European Union (95%) and EFTA (5%) as an “Annex III Organisation” under Regulation (EU) 1025/2012. In 2015, the ANEC budget totals 1,32M€. The participation of our voluntary experts is considered by the European Commission and EFTA Secretariat as a contribution in kind. In 2007, the ANEC Secretariat calculated the value of this contribution to be 260.000€, and estimated its value to be at least 350.000€ in 2013.
ANEC is an international non-profit association established under Belgian law with a central secretariat in Brussels, Belgium. We are recognised by the European Commission and EFTA Secretariat and are a full member of the European Consumer Consultative Group (ECCG). We are also a member of several EC consultative committees and numerous expert groups. ANEC has signed the European Transparency Register (No. 507800799-30) and abides by its Code of Conduct.
What is the economic benefit of standards?
The academic study of the benefits of standards and standardisation has been quite limited and focused at the national level, but the German national standards body, DIN, has calculated that the use of standards contributes one percentage point to the annual growth of the German economy (about 27.000M€).
Similarly, the United Kingdom government attributes 13% of the growth in British labour productivity since 1945 to the use of standards. Other UK studies show that standardisation adds between 0.3% and 1% to the GDP on an annual basis.
Although ANEC appreciates these measures of the economic benefits in underlining the importance of standards, we still await a formal academic assessment of the contribution of standards to societal welfare. In 2014, we did our own preliminary study. Its conclusions stressed the difficulty in defining quantitative data on societal benefits.
How is ANEC structured?
ANEC is governed by a General Assembly (ANEC/GA) which is open to membership of the countries of the European Union and EFTA, as well as candidate accession countries to the EU. In 2012, Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia joined as the 32nd and 33rd members. The individual national member is nominated through a collective decision of the national consumer organisations in each country and acts as the interlocutor between them and ANEC. Each General Assembly serves a four-year term and ordinarily meets annually. The General Assembly meeting is presided over by the ANEC President, elected by the General Assembly from among its membership for a two-year term. The ANEC Secretary-General acts as its secretary.
The strategic decisions of the General Assembly are implemented by an executive board known as the ANEC Steering Committee (ANEC/SC). Chaired by the ANEC President, the Steering Committee comprises up to nine members elected by the General Assembly from among its membership for a two-year term. The Steering Committee members elect the ANEC Vice-President and ANEC Treasurer, again for two-year terms. The Steering Committee meets up to four times each year and also works by correspondence.
Each field of priority in which ANEC operates, determined by the ANEC General Assembly and Steering Committee, has a Working Group (ANEC/WG) as its focus. Each WG has a Chair (appointed as an observer to the General Assembly) and Secretary (a Manager from the ANEC Secretariat). Its members are voluntary experts drawn from across the countries of the ANEC membership. Among other responsibilities, each WG is responsible for defining the priorities in its sector and for determining the positions of the ANEC representatives in the ESOs and similar organisations.
In 2015, the ANEC budget allowed ANEC to operate in the following main areas of priority: Child Safety, Design for All (DfA), Domestic Appliances (DOMAP), Sustainability, Information Society, Services, Traffic, Chemicals and Smart Meters.
With BEUC, ANEC is active in a separately-funded project to represent the consumer interest in Implementing Measures for Ecodesign, and has an agreement with ECOS in representation of the citizens’ interest in ecodesign standardisation.
ANEC is also a member of MarketWatch, a project that aims to test the value of civil society in market surveillance activities on the energy-labelling of products, and of SAMNIC, which aims to deliver mass training on the safety assessment and management of new & innovative children's products
The ANEC Secretariat acts as the hub of the association. Headed by the ANEC Secretary-General, it manages the activities of its actors at European (and sometimes international) level; supports the governance and technical bodies of the association and the members of those bodies, and leads on the representation of ANEC within the European institutions.