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Explainer: What you should know about the BIS & ISI?

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The Bureau of Indian Standards recently announced that the BIS standards are now available free of cost for everyone and that the process of certification, grant of license, etc. has been made simpler. What should an average consumer know about the BIS & the ISI mark? Here is an explainer.

It was recently announced that the services of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) are now available free of cost for everyone, and the entire process of certification is automated through the Standardization Portal of e-BIS i.e. Manak portal. In this story, we look at the importance of the BIS system and the changes brought about by this reform.

What is BIS?

Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), the National Standards Body of India was established under the BIS Act 1986, assuming the functions of the erstwhile Indian Standards Institution (ISI), which was established in 1946. The BIS Act 2016 came into force on 12 October 2017 superseding BIS Act 1986. The BIS functions as a National Standard Body of India for the harmonious development of the activities of standardization, marking, and quality certification of goods. 

Standardization supports economic growth, enhances competitiveness, and fosters technological developments. It is also a tool to influence public policies such as health and safety, protection of the environment, and consumer protection. By ensuring a level playing field and defining common criteria of acceptance of goods, standards are increasingly being used as tools to support regulatory frameworks and to facilitate trade. The BIS has been providing traceability and tangibility benefits to the national economy in a number of ways – providing safe reliable quality goods; minimizing health hazards to consumers; promoting exports and imports substitute; control over proliferation of varieties, etc. through standardization, certification, and testing.

Keeping in view, the interest of consumers as well as the industry, BIS is involved in various activities as given below:

  • Standards Formulation
  • Product Certification Scheme
  • Compulsory Registration Scheme
  • Foreign Manufacturers Certification Scheme
  • Hall Marking Scheme
  • Laboratory Services
  • Laboratory Recognition Scheme
  • Sale of Indian Standards
  • Consumer Affairs Activities
  • Promotional Activities
  • Training Services, National & International level
  • Information Services

Why are these reforms important?

Let us take a look at the details of the announced BIS reforms 2021 and how they are important.

Reform 1: For the benefit of industry, particularly the MSME sector, Indian Standards are now available free of cost, and can be downloaded from the Manak portal.

Reform 2: Several steps have been taken to ease the compliance burden on the stakeholders like automation of the entire process of certification, including the grant of a license, renewal of license, and inclusion is automated through the Manak portal.

According to a comprehensive review of BIS, although the awareness of BIS’s functions was categorised as ‘good’, the awareness about the management system certification services of BIS was ‘relatively low’. About 80% of the respondents found the adequacy/effectiveness of consumer awareness & standards promotion programmes to be ‘fair to poor’. These steps can potentially improve the level of awareness about BIS’s certification systems.

Reform 3: Substantial reduction in the Minimum Marking fee i.e., 50 percent for Micro industry, start-ups, and women entrepreneurs. Old license holders will also get an additional 10 percent rebate.

As a result of this step, the coveted ISI mark will soon become less expensive for start-ups, women entrepreneurs, and small units. This will further improve the ‘ease of doing business’ agenda of the government.

Reform 4: More than 80% of products being brought under Simplified Procedure. This means a license for the manufacturing of these products will be granted within a period of one month. System of consultation with applicants is introduced at the stage of Scrutiny of Application to avoid delay in processing.

Reform 5: The Scheme of One Nation One Standard has been launched to harmonize the standard formulation work happening in various organizations.

According to the review, overall a ‘fairly significant’ percentage of the respondents (~23%) were dissatisfied with process/certification cycle time. In the case of Hallmarking, the percentage of dissatisfied respondents increased to around 50 percent. This step can potentially improve the turnaround time for certifications.

Who has to get BIS certification?

BIS carries out various activities like that of standards formulation, product certification, hallmarking, laboratory services, training services, etc. The primary and most recognized objective of BIS is to formulate and prescribe the standards for products for their certification. The following schemes of certification are covered under BIS.

  • Product Certification Scheme – Applicable for tangible products; with some products classified under compulsory certification like cement, electrical goods, food products, automobile accessories, medical equipment, etc.
  • System Certification Scheme – Applicable for systems/processes.
  • Foreign Manufacturers Certification Scheme – Overseas applicants/foreign manufacturers are granted a license for the use of the ISI mark.
  • Hallmarking – Applicable for articles made from precious metals like gold and silver.
  • ECO Mark Scheme – Applicable for products affecting or related to the environment. Eco-friendly products should conform to additional requirements specified in the Indian Standards to qualify for the ECO mark.

Obtaining the BIS registration is essentially voluntary in nature. However, BIS requires a compulsory certification for products that impact the health and safety of consumers.

The mandatory certification scheme is bifurcated into ISI (Indian Standards Institute) Mark Scheme and Compulsory Certification Scheme (collectively referred to as ‘Standard Mark’). ISI Mark Scheme is applicable for products such as cement, electrical appliances, baby food, etc. and Compulsory Certification is required mostly for IT/ electronic products. For procurement of the BIS certificate, the manufacturer has to ensure that the product is in compliance with the ‘Indian Standard’.

‘Indian Standard’ has been defined under the Act as the standard set and published by the BIS, with regards to any article or process which is indicative of the quality and specification of such article or process and also includes: (i) Any standard recognized by the BIS and (ii) Any standard established and published, or recognized, by the ISI.

How does BIS certification help customers?

In the era of globalization and the growing importance of ensuring conformity with standards in global trade, BIS has huge significance and responsibility. The conformity assessment procedures have become increasingly important in the modern-day and hence, BIS plays a critical role in strengthening Indian trade and exports.

The quality certification of products safeguards people from several health and safety hazards.

  • BIS is responsible for the quality check of various products and services across 14 different sectors. 
  • BIS’s Product Certification Scheme is regarded as one of the biggest around the world, with around 26500 licensees covering around 900 products.

The Act empowers BIS to pass orders granting, suspending, or rejecting a license. Any violation of the provisions of the Act and the non-compliance with the standards set by BIS is punishable with either imprisonment for a period of one year or with a fine extending up to Rs. 50,000.

BIS also carries out enforcement activity to curb the use of Standard Mark or its imitation by unscrupulous traders and manufacturers not holding a valid BIS license. The objective behind these enforcement activities is to protect consumers from being misled about the quality of products that are marked with the BIS Standard Mark. Enforcement raids, which include search and seizure operations are carried out against traders and manufacturers on the basis of intelligence collected regarding misuse of the Standard Mark, and where required, prosecution cases are filed in the court of law.

Here is what Consumers should know & do

The streamlining of the entire process ensures that most of the information is available online for consumers. There are multiple things that consumers can do. Firstly, consumers can find out the list of products that are under the compulsory certification and understand the ISI mark process and the license number. In other words, all such products should mandatorily have the ISI registered mark.

Search for Licensed products & brands: Consumers can search for licensed products & brands, the validity of the license and other details online.

File Complaints Online: Consumers can also file complaints online for any violation of the standards, lack of licensing, etc. and also go through the list of FAQs available on the portal.

Check for Consumer Complaints & relevant Court Orders: The list of consumer complaints & the relevant court orders are also available online. There is also a consumer dashboard that provides the status of various complaints & consumer-related programs taken up by the BIS.

Featured Image: Bureau of Indian Standards

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