AFNOR today announces the release of the world's first opt-in standard designed to enable reliable processing all consumer reviews published on the web. 43 organizations collaboratively combined their efforts over 18 months of work to co-define core rules applicable to all online websites that collect consumer reviews on products, travel, restaurants, and services in general.
Almost 9 out of 10 French consumers read online consumer reviews and 89% rate them as “useful” or “very useful”. Yet despite these figures, there is clearly a trust issue: ¾ of French users claim that some consumer reviews are fake1 .
In response to this pressing concern, AFNOR is publishing the very first opt-in standard delivering the consensus-built rules and procedures co-defined by 43 separate organizations (businesses, e-commerce industries, consumer groups, trade federations, national authorities and agencies) who managed to harness their efforts and leave their own interests behind to build – in the space of just 18 months2 – the world’s very first reference document defining core principles and requirements on how consumer reviews of products and services are collected, moderated and published online.
Standard NF Z74-501 delivers solutions that can be applied by any website looking to build and improve customer relationship quality. For online users, the standard helps define foundational components of online trust: the changes in practices that NF Z74-501 is set to bring necessitate transparency and set the core requirement of fresh up-to-date consumer reviews and counterchecking proof that consumers have actually bought the product/service they are commenting on.
Examples of the standard’s core principles and requirements:
How will the standard be used?
Any administrator of a website that handles consumer reviews of products or services can elect to bring their website into compliance with the requirements of this opt-in standard NF Z74-501. If they choose to opt in, the administrator downloads a copy of the standard from the AFNOR website and gets to work on readapting their practices and developing the requisite functionalities. Administrators also have the option of self-declaring compliance with the standard (no external audit is led), in which case the website engages personal responsibility3 of the administrator who guarantees they will provide proof of compliance if challenged by an authority agency. He/She may later want to show their stakeholders (clients, internet users, sponsors) greater trustability, in which case they can bring in an independent certification body to verify and certify compliance.
This standard may serve as a template for an international standard coordinated by the International Organization for Standardization (IS0), of which AFNOR is French representative.
How the project emerged
The draft standard was a project initiated in the wake of a proposal put forward late-2011 by Testntrust, who had funded an AFNOR-led feasibility study. After checking that there was no French, European or international reference document dealing with the same subject, a standardization commission was set up to federate any and all potential stakeholders. The members met a total of 13 times between January and December 2012, working with a collegial input and consensus-building approach to submit a public review draft open for comment from 2 December 2012 to 15 February 2013 (i.e. a tighter ten-week interval than the regular two months at www.enquetes-publiques.afnor.org ). Over 300 comments were collected, compiled, and examined one-by-one over a four-day analysis session.
What is an opt-in standard?
A standard is an AFNOR-published reference document produced iteratively and collaboratively published by AFNOR with active input from a federative community of representative field professionals (industry leaders, consumer groups, associations, unions, local authorities, and other). A standard gives a set of core principles and key requirements on a process activity or performance outcomes. There are 33,000 opt-in standards currently issued. Only 1% have been made compulsory regulatory standards. All the standards systematically get revised at least every 5 years to keep them fresh and relevant, at which point the professionals involved decide to continue, update or cancel the version. Of the 1942 new documents published in 2012, 1224 were revised standards. 1543 standards have been pulled out of the series catalogues.
2 On average, a French standard takes 3 years to produce.
3 Under the French Consumer Code, misuse of the AFNOR standard is a fraudulent commercial practice punishable by a fine of up to €37,500 for natural persons and up to €187,500 for legal entities together with a court injunction to cease the practice(s) and published notice of the ruling: French Consumer Code, clauses 121-1-1-1 I 1°to 4