How to differentiate the fake from the valid
During the current pandemic there is a greater demand for products and services, particularly Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and it is important that procurers are confident that what they are buying is fit for purpose and meets the necessary safety standards.
In recent weeks UKAS has become aware of a rising number of counterfeit certificates relating to PPE, making false claims over holding quality standards. The certificate being supplied to provide confidence may appear to tick all the boxes and to meet the required standards, but what can be done to make sure? The simple checks below can be made to validate the certificate, enabling the purchase to be made with confidence.
Step 1: Check that the certificate has been issued by a certification body that is accredited by an internationally recognised accreditation body.
For assurance that the accreditation body is compliant, you should look for one that has been accepted as a signatory to a recognised Multilateral Recognition Agreement (MLA). For international trade, the MLA operated by the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) is fully recognised and therefore procurers should be checking that the certification body has been accredited by an IAF MLA signatory.
The IAF MLA is split into sub-scopes, including coverage of individual management systems such a for quality management systems (ISO 9001), medical devices management systems (ISO 13485), food safety management systems, etc. Therefore, you must ensure that the accreditation body is a signatory for the sub-scope that relates to the certificate in question.
The validity of the accreditation body, including appropriate sub-scope can be easily checked by visiting the IAF website (www.iaf.com). All signatory accreditation bodies together with the scope of their MLA are clearly listed, with this data being maintained up-to-date.
Step 2: Check the claims by the certification body that they hold the appropriate accreditation from the accreditation body.
You can check by visiting the accreditation body’s website where you should find the scope of the certification body’s accreditation (take care: the certification body may hold accreditation but it may not include the service or management system relevant to the product or service being provided). If the certification body claims to hold UKAS accreditation then this can be checked and confirmed by visiting the search function on the UKAS website (www.ukas.com)
Step 3: Validation of certificate.
If it has been established that the certificate has been issued by a certification body that holds the appropriate accreditation from an IAF signatory accreditation body, then you need confirmation that the certificate itself is valid. This can be achieved through the certification body, either through a search function on their website or through direct contact. Contact details of all UKAS accredited certification bodies are presented on their schedule of accreditation, available on the UKAS website.
IAF CertSearch: UKAS is currently in the process of developing a database that will contain up-to-date information on all management system certificates covered by UKAS accreditation. In the interim, a similar database has been developed by IAF, IAF CertSearch. This would be a useful first port of call to validate a certificate although it is not comprehensively populated, and therefore the information you seek may not be available. If information on certificates has not been uploaded to the IAF CertSearch database but it is clear that they do hold appropriate accreditation, then you would be advised to progress directly to Step 3 above.