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EU outlines plans to improve standardisation of services

The European Commission has announced plans to update its standardisation system, with a particular focus on the services sector.02 Jun 2016

Services account for 70% of the EU economy, but only 2% of all European standards relate to services, the Commission said. This causes problems for the cross-border provision of services, so the Commission is keen to promote the development of voluntary standards.

Services standards will include things like the terminology used in hotel and tourist accommodation. Using common standards and clarifying expectations between providers and their customers can reduce costs and ease access to new markets, the Commission said.

This is "a progressive step forward, increasing the transparency of service and product options and generating trust in the supply of such offerings across borders", said Claire Hughes of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.

"Creating a level playing field, by reducing confusion in different descriptions such that the consumer understands the nature and quality of product and service he or she is looking to purchase, will encourage greater choice for all," Hughes said.

The services standards work will fall under a standardisation work programme for 2017 focussed on services and ICT, the Commission said. As part of this programme the Commission announced measures last month to speed up the standard setting process in ICT, focusing on 5G, cloud computing, internet of things, data technologies and cybersecurity.

Standardisation is increasingly done at a global level, so the European standardisation system needs to be able to respond effectively to ensure that Europe remains "the global hub for standardisation", the Commission said.

The Commission also announced the next steps it has planned for a Joint Initiative in Standardisation (JIS) between European institutions and the standardisation community.

The JIS will be formally launched by all partners on 13 June in Amsterdam, bringing together European and national standardisation organisations and bodies with business, consumer associations, trade unions, environmental organisations, EU countries and the Commission to speed up the delivery of standards by the end of 2019, the Commission said. An annual reporting system among EU institutions will track how the standardisation policy is working.