Guidance

Accreditation and conformity assessment: guidance for business and government departments

Published 16 January 2014

Conformity assessment and accreditation, along with standards, are important ways to give confidence in goods, services, management systems and people. They make a significant contribution to the economy, health and safety, and environment.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) is responsible for conformity assessment and accreditation policy. This information is for businesses and other government departments (OGDs) that are looking for tools to:

  • provide assurance to customers that their products or services meet specified requirements
  • help them win contracts where conformity assessment and accreditation are required
  • deliver government policy

For information on standards see the innovation standardisation guide.

Conformity assessment

Conformity provides assurance that what is being supplied actually meets the expectations specified or claimed. Conformity assessment can be applied to:

  • products
  • services
  • processes
  • systems
  • bodies
  • people

Conformity assessment includes activities such as testing, inspection and certification. The organisations that make these checks are called conformity assessment bodies.

Accreditation

Accreditation is given to a conformity assessment body when it is recognised as competent in accordance with recognised standards. Accreditation is used in both the regulated and voluntary sectors. In Europe, governments are required to appoint a single national accreditation body to carry out the accreditation of conformity assessment bodies.

Accreditation increases trust in conformity assessment and helps products, processes, services, systems, persons and bodies be recognised across the European Union (EU).

Seek accreditation in the UK with UKAS

The UK government expects UK based conformity assessment bodies to:

  • be compliant with European legislation
  • seek accreditation from the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS)

UKAS is the body appointed by BIS to be the national accreditation body. As the national accreditation body, UKAS is required to be compliant with European legislation and operate within the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding with BIS.

BIS encourages and recommends UK businesses, government, and local authorities that need third party conformity assessment services to use services from conformity assessment bodies accredited by a national accreditation body.

The UKAS website has more information on what accreditation is, the benefits of accreditation for both business and government, as well as how to apply for accreditation. It also has, for those seeking to employ an accredited conformity assessment body, a list of those conformity assessment bodies that have been accredited by UKAS.

BIS sponsors UKAS and provides funding to UKAS to undertake public interest activities (ie non-fee earning activities) in representing the UK’s interests in the international accreditation infrastructure. It also provides funding to raise awareness of the benefits of accredited conformity assessment in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and government. Otherwise, UKAS is expected to be self-financing.

The economic value of accreditation

An independent report valued the economic benefits of accreditation to the UK at more than £600 million a year.

Accreditation policy

BIS leads on general accreditation policy across all departments. Individual government departments and agencies are responsible for the application of accreditation policy for their specific areas of responsibility.

BIS pursues the UK’s accreditation interests in Europe in communications with other member states and the EU. BIS is also involved in the development of guidance in the application of European accreditation regulation, in particular Regulation (EC) No: 765/2008.

Read the BIS statement of conformity and accreditation policy.

Health and social care: accreditation policy

The UKAS business plan includes advancing the use of accreditation in the health and social care sectors. To ensure clarity about where accreditation can be used, BIS and the Department of Health (DH) have agreed a joint policy statement.

Read the BIS and the DH statement on accreditation in health and social care. Government’s policy on accreditation in health and social care (PDF, 184KB, 1 page).

Accreditation logo and symbols

See the conditions for using the national accreditation logo and symbols.

BIS owns the national accreditation logo and symbols - that incorporate the Royal Crown - which BIS licences to UKAS. UKAS is able to sub-licence the symbols to successfully accredited conformity assessment bodies.

Non-accredited certification

BIS knows certification bodies and representative associations are concerned at the increase in the number of UK organisations offering certification when they are not accredited to do so.

BIS has advised certification representative organisations in the UK that:

  • the only ‘authoritative statement’ of competence, that has public authority status - providing the last level of control in the conformity assessment chain is from the UK’s national accreditation body, UKAS
  • any organisation that is suggesting it is accredited in the sense of Regulation 765/2008 when they are not, is likely to be guilty of an offence under the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 (Statutory Instrument 2008/1276)
  • certification bodies or representative organisations should refer these cases to trading standards or the Office of Fair Trading in the first instance

Chartered Quality Institute (CQI)

You may also wish to see what the CQI has to advise on ‘selecting a certification body for the certification of quality management systems’.

Regulation (EC) No: 765/2008

This regulation:

  • states that accreditation can be used in both the voluntary and regulated sectors
  • states that accreditation is a public authority activity
  • requires member states to appoint a single NAB
  • requires the national accreditation bodies (NABs) to be a not-for-profit organisation
  • requires that NABs do not compete with each other
  • requires conformity assessment bodies requesting accreditation to do so with the NAB of the member state in which it is established
  • sets down requirements that NAB must fulfil
  • requires member states to monitor their NAB
  • requires NABs to undergo regular evaluation by their peers
  • establishes a European accreditation infrastructure (the European co-operation for accreditation), of which each NAB must be a member

Decision No: 768/2008/EC (a common framework for the marketing of products)

The above decision provides a ‘toolbox’ of measures for economic operators including:

  • a common set of reference provisions (ie standard text)
  • definitions
  • general obligations

It also provides a range of conformity assessment procedures from which the European Commission, Council and the European Parliament can select as appropriate by direct reference to the decision when drafting or revising single market directives.

The decision lays down reference provisions on the requirements for conformity assessment bodies to be notified to the Commission as competent to carry out the relevant conformity assessment procedures; as well as the notification procedures. The conformity assessment procedures, or modules, in the decision, give the legislator a means to ensure that products are in full conformity with the essential requirements laid down in the technical harmonisation legislation.

The decision not only encourages the accreditation of conformity assessment bodies working in the voluntary sector but also requires member states to consider accreditation as the preferred means of demonstrating a conformity assessment body’s competence for the purposes of notification.

See Regulation (EC) No: 765/2008 and Decision No: 768/2008/EC.