The reliability of certification bodies: an investigation on the Russian marketplace

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It is a fact, that the quantity of Russian certification bodies and laboratories working for the CU TR compliance area is higher than the number of certification bodies and laboratories combined in other 4 EAEU member states. But are all certification bodies and laboratories in Russia competitive and can be trusted on the same level? To answer this question, we can analyze the changes in this market during the last 2 years.

How the crowding of Certification Bodies decreased in the last two years

Federal Rosaccreditation Agency (FSA) is the main authority that gives accreditations to experts, expert companies, laboratories, certification bodies, and metrology agencies. FSA also organizes the audits for these experts and companies. So, FSA has a right to issue, stop, and cancel the accreditation of certification bodies.

Over the latest years, FSA decided to increase the level of competence and trust of the market by tightening the rules, both internal (audits) and external (laws and decrees). FSA actively utilizes the experience of international colleagues (e.g. from EU), who show, that relatively little number of certification bodies can keep competitiveness, but at the same time have a high level of service and high reliability. In other words, one of the KPIs of FSA is how much the amount of certification bodies and laboratories is decreasing every year. See the chart below (numbers are taken from the FSA official website) to view the KPI.

 

Grey – total number of new accreditations issued, Red – total number of canceled accreditations

 

The graph indicates the total amount of companies that are accredited by FSA.

As for 2019 the total amount of Russian certification bodies accredited for at least 1 CU TR compliance verification is around 600. Currently, 75 certification bodies are “on hold” after the audit findings by authorities; usually within 1-3 months their accreditation is given back or becomes canceled. Historically, around 450 certification bodies were closed after the audit of the authorities (since 2013):

 

Accreditation of certification bodies Active Stopped (“on hold”) Canceled (2013-2019)
CU TR 010 225 19 154
CU TR 012 27 0 18
CU TR 032 100 8 65

 

The same is for laboratories accreditation, for example:

Accreditation of laboratories Active Stopped (‘on hold’) Canceled (2013-2019)
CU TR 020 43 2 20

 

Also note that some of these companies have very narrow accreditation (e.g. work only with railway equipment; others work only with electronics and so on) or a wide one.

 

Here is a different interpretation of the same idea: the amount of closed CU TR – accredited laboratories and certification bodies in the last years.

Monthly AVG cancelation 2017 2018 2019
Labs 9 13 4
CBs 5.5 4 1

 

FSA against the “1-year certification bodies”, what will happen?

As seen above, FSA maybe would reach its regularity soon. So, what will happen by the end of 2020?

Actually, the regulator is still considering the market full of not reliable companies, and constantly finds different ways to fight the “1-year certification bodies”.

What does “1-year’ certification body mean? This is an existing practice in bad Russian companies, who become legally established and immediately undergo the accreditation process; i.e. FSA must issue accreditation for such company, if they follow the application procedure with no problems, the company prints CU TR certificates for a cheap price and without doing a serious job.

After 12 months from the initial accreditation, the company shall undergo the yearly audit by authorities. They of course are not able to pass the audit (because they didn’t do good service!). Further, if the company refuses to undergo the procedure, FSA will cancel its accreditation. Still, the same owner, with the help of the same “experts”, will register another legal entity and applies to FSA for new accreditation as a new legal entity. This repeats every year.

To fight with such companies, FSA is going to issue a mandatory high (around 10 million Rubles) minimum capital for certification bodies and labs. In case they lose accreditation for certain reasons, for example – avoiding the yearly audit -, the capital will be arrested.

The method mentioned above is quite extreme. However, FSA has recently started other actions, which tighten the industry. Among them:

  1. Cooperation with Russian customs service. Customs experts during customs clearance of the international goods can ask not the only copy of a CU TR certificate or declaration, but also a proof that prior to this certificate or declaration, samples had been imported to Russian labs for testing. If this proof can’t be provided, the goods may be legally stopped at the border.
  2. Decision 44 from April 2018. This decision narrows down the possible interpretations of any certification process. The document describes in detail all the steps: how to do the certification, how and why to stop certificates, how to cancel certificates, and so on. Any deviation from following this decision can result in penalties for the certification bodies and laboratory.
  3. Decree 300 from March 2019. This decree gave a right to FSA to cancel all certificates and declarations of certain certification bodies, in case it was proven, that this certification body did not perform the service responsibly. This extreme measure is established to also warn the manufacturers: if manufacturers choose a not reliable certification body, their certificates may be canceled together with the accreditation.
  4. FSA will publish soon on official website information not only about very bad certification bodies who they have canceled but also about their clients.
  5. FSA established new register websites for certificates and declarations. Now the certification bodies are obliged to upload copies of documents to these portals during the process of certification/declaration registration. Therefore, all the materials can be at any moment visible.

 

What has changed in 2020

The restricted measures settle by FSA gave some results in 2020:

  • The total number of laboratories and certification bodies decreased.
  • Before 2016 around 80% of certificates were done without real tests. Around the end of 2018, this percentage decreased to 10%. This tendency was confirmed in 2019, and still, will be probably the same at the end of 2020.
  • Laboratories and certification bodies, who are left on the market, and who received accreditation more than 1 year ago, can be trusted.

 

However, these changes imply some observations:

  • The process of certification has become more bureaucratic. The companies are afraid to deviate even a bit from the certification process rules, due to the very strict requirements for the documentation and process.
  • The cost of service has become more expensive since laboratories must attend trustworthy tests.
  • The tendency and actions of FSA scared the market. For some market participants, the certification process has changed from “to check the safety of equipment” to “to do all the actions prescribed by FSA, so that they don’t give me any penalties”.
  • Some good companies left the market. As for 2019, it is almost impossible to test big industrial equipment for EMC in Russia. Laboratories exist, but they left the market of accredited laboratories in 2020 for different reasons.

 

We stay up to date with the certification processes in the CIS market and we are always ready to assist your business with the local Technical and Regulations compliance.

 

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