In an interview published in this month’s Standards Australia e-news, Consumers SA Secretary, John Furbank discusses his role as a consumer representative on a number of Standards Australia and International Standards Organisation committees. 

John highlights the importance of local and international standards in protecting consumers and helping them to make informed purchasing decisions, saying in part:

“Products that comply with Australian or international standards provide consumers with the confidence that the product will work as claimed, is safe … and carries adequate instructions on assembly and use”.

On the wider role of international standards, John says that, they help to establish, “… best practice in societal issues such as privacy, consumer vulnerability, collaborative economy, sustainability, etc”. 

John’s interview is below. You can read the whole newsletter - here.


In Conversation with John Furbank


John Furbank advises and audits industry on compliance with Australian and international technical standards and consumer protection legislation. He previously held a number of senior positions with fair trading and trading standards authorities in Australia and the United Kingdom. John was also Director of Fair Trading in Fiji where he established a national standards authority. He is a member of the Consumers Federation of Australia and sits on a number of Standards Australia committees and ISO international committees. To name a few, John is Head of Delegation to ISO’s Committee on Consumer Policy (COPOLCO) and chairs the Australian mirror committee, and is Chair of ISO PC 294, Guidance on unit pricing, and mirror committee CS-113. John is also a member of Standards Australia’s Standards Development and Accreditation Committee (SDAC).

Standards Australia: In what capacity do you interact with Standards Australia?
John Furbank: As a consumer representative I contribute using my knowledge of consumer rights and Consumer Federation values and policies. For committees concerning consumer safety, such as microwavable heat packs and trampoline park facilities, I also bring my professional experience and expertise. The committee on organic and biodynamic products is a particular passion of mine which, prior to the project commencing, I studied from a both consumer and industry perspective. Additionally, my work advising retailers and importers on compliance with standards involves interpreting and researching standards.

SA: How does your position on SDAC affect your role as a committee member?
JF: As a member of SDAC, I have developed an understanding of how Standards Australia works and its evolving environment to manage changes in government policy, changes in funding and influences of international agreements and international standards. My role as a committee member provides a practical background which I can bring to discussion at SDAC, while my SDAC role provides valuable insight which I take to my committee meetings.

SA: How can international standards serve consumers here in Australia?
JF: International standards are extremely valuable to Australian consumers. A high percentage of products purchased in Australia are manufactured overseas. It is essential that these products are fit for purpose and safe to use. Products that comply with Australian or international standards provide consumers with the confidence that the product will work as claimed, is safe to the user and in conjunction with other equipment, and carries adequate instructions on assembly and use.

It is also valuable for Australia to be represented at international committees and working groups to ensure that Australia has a say in the development of the standard. ISO’s Consumer Policy Committee (COPOLCO) has instigated and assisted in developing some helpful international guides to assist national committees in the development of local standards and a number of initiatives that have resulted in the development of ISO standards.

SA: How can Standards Australia better collaborate with stakeholders?
JF: Standards Australia forums are a great way to get different parties together, highlighting differences and meeting points, and allowing Standards Australia to collaborate with a range of stakeholders. National Sector Managers and Project Managers are key elements in ensuring stakeholders are aware of developments, including both Standards Australia issues and matters concerning the project itself. An essential part of both roles is acknowledging the importance of stakeholders and their relationship with Standards Australia. Consumers are a key stakeholder group in the development of standards, making the product or service relevant to the market and end user. However, not having government or industry financial clout, they require continued Standards Australia support and acknowledgement of their strategic importance.

SA: What do you think is in the future of standardisation?
JF: I believe that standardisation will play a significant role in the economic and social development of Australia. With governments wishing to reduce regulation and cut red tape, standards are important in ensuring that quality, safety and innovation are maintained. As a country that relies on global trade, Standards Australia’s continued involvement in international standards is crucial. The quality of goods we purchase and export are largely dependent on internationally recognised standards. International standards also establish frameworks for establishing best practice in societal issues such as privacy, consumer vulnerability, collaborative economy, sustainability, etc.


AuthorRay Dennis