Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, Project No. P954501
Section 260.6 – Certifications and Seals of Approval Recommendation from AAMA is for the FTC to eliminate the requirement for disclosure of a material connection providing that the certification program complies with the requirements of ISO/IEC Guide 65. Disclosure of a material connection implies that a bias exists which undoubtedly results in a consumer perception that the certification seal should not be considered credible. However, compliance with ISO/IEC Guide 65 eliminates the opportunity for such bias to exist in a certification program and should, therefore, preclude the requirement for disclosure of the material connection. ISO (International Organization for Standardization) writes standards to which organizations may become accredited. ANSI (the American National Standards Institute) and International Accreditation Service (IAS) accredit numerous product certification programs. All of these organizations have long recognized that trade association product certification programs may operate truly as independent, third-party programs through the use of documented procedures and structure which safeguard impartiality. The clause defining the requirements for such procedure documentation is intended to counteract any tendency on the part of the owners of a certification body to allow commercial or other considerations to prevent the consistent technically objective provision of its service. Certification bodies are required to demonstrate how they manage their certification business and any other activities so as to eliminate actual conflict of interest and minimize any identified risk to impartiality. These processes must also be opened to the accreditation body for audit. ISO 17020 further defines certification body performance by requiring that the inspection body providing “third party” services shall be independent of the parties involved, shall not engage in any activities that may conflict with their independence of judgment and integrity in relation to their inspection activities, and must make their inspection services accessible to all parties interested in obtaining the certification. Since organizations such as ANSI, IAS and ISO, which exist specifically to ensure the integrity of product performance standards and certification seals, recognize that impartiality is achievable in a product certification program provided by a trade association even when the certifying companies are members of that association, the FTC should recognize this well-established process and broader definition of third-party certification and not require any qualifying language with the seal of approval stating a “material connection” which could falsely diminish the perceived value of the seal.