Product certification schemes are not all the same and it is important that customers understand that there are differences between them. For example, schemes may be designed to cover individual "one-off" products or be based upon independent, expert type-testing of a representative sample (such as AGA's Type-Tested Schemes). Often, regulatory requirements dictate which type of Scheme is applied to specific products, with the perceived associated safety risk a significant determining characteristic. Other Scheme factors would tend to include transparency, independence, a customer's quality management system and the degree of product surveillance audit post-certification. For example, the AGA's Product Certification Scheme for Type Tested Plumbing Products (ie WaterMark) is essentially based upon a customers extensive quality program/s, formal testing of selected product samples and a stringent monitoring process.
Whilst accredited product certification schemes are essentially designed to meet the requirements of the benchmark international standard for such bodies (ISO/IEC 17065), certifiers are able to build additional requirements into their schemes. Some certifiers may see this as an opportunity to maximise revenue, whereas AGA as a not-for-profit organisation only focuses on expected safety outcomes. Customers should take time to identify scheme differences between potential certifying bodies and calculate the total cost of certification over an extended period (say 3 or 5 years) to better compare real costs.
Each type of scheme will be structured to serve a particular circumstance or type of product. There will be fundamental differences between the schemes and the customer will need to be careful to consider exactly what each scheme delivers and what product compliance issues prevail within their markets. The degree of regulatory acceptance of a particular scheme is clearly important for most manufacturers and importers and it should not be assumed that all schemes are routinely accepted in all jurisdictions. It would also be prudent for consideration to be given to the impact the choice of certification scheme might have on product-related insurance premiums and cover. Similarly, an organisation placing product into the marketplace may at some point, and typically when it is least expected, be called upon to demonstrate how it satsified its legal and community due diligence expectations. The use of an independent, robust and highly-credentialled certification body/scheme such as provided by the AGA is clearly a powerful statement.
Anyone wishing to have their product certified by AGA should refer to the relevant product category under the Applications menu above and, in particular, download the relevant Rules Governing.