What is accreditation?
Accreditation is a third party, impartial and independent process to assess that an organization is competent to perform specific tests, inspections, measurements and certifications.
By using accredited services, businesses can demonstrate compliance with standards and regulations.
Accreditation provides confidence in certificates and conformity attestations. It underpins quality of results by ensuring traceability, comparability, validity and commutability.
In an increasing number of activities and markets, it is a requirement to use accredited services before placing products on the market.
Using accredited services provides market differentiation. It is objective proof that a product or service is compliant and safe because it meets the relevant specifications.
Benefits and value
Accreditation helps businesses to reduce costs, increase productivity and access new markets. It also helps to build customer confidence.
Using accredited services for businesses can:
- Make it easier and less expensive to export and access new markets because once tested or certified by an accredited body, there should be no need to re-test or re-certify a product for foreign markets;
- Be both less risky and cheaper as importing goods and services with an accredited report or certificate confirms conformity to recognized standards and can therefore also avoid the costs of re-testing;
- Be an essential tool for decision-making, risk management and supplier selection in order to contribute to the operational efficiency of businesses;
- Give a competitive advantage in domestic markets through access to public sector contracts;
- Increase the confidence of consumers who want to trust in the goods and services they buy and use.
Accreditation provides the last level of public control in a quality chain underpinning the free movement of goods in the Union.
For examples of benefits, visit the Business Benefits’ website: www.business-benefits.org
How accreditation works?
Accreditation is the result of an assessment which:
- is carried out impartially;
- is objective, transparent and effective;
- uses highly professional competent assessors and technical experts in all relevant fields.
Accredited bodies are regularly re-assessed to:
- ensure they are keeping pace with technical and regulatory changes in their area of expertise,
- maintain their standards of work.
To provide fair competition between companies which use accredited bodies, accreditation needs to be harmonized to produce comparable results. Harmonization in accreditation practices is made possible through the work of the EA technical committees, continuous discussions and experience sharing amongst EA Members. Stakeholder and market feedback is also regularly taken into consideration.
Accreditation is the international stamp of approval that “tested once” means “accepted everywhere”.
Regulation (EC) No 765/2008 has established a single European system which covers both the regulated domain, where accreditation is required by legislation, as well as the non-regulated sphere. In the latter case, where a body voluntarily wishes to be accredited it can only go the National Accreditation Bodies (NAB) which operate under Regulation (EC) No 765/2008, thus avoiding the existence of competing systems, whichever principles they may be based on.
According to Regulation (EC) No 765/2008, accreditation is the preferred way to demonstrate competence and impartiality of so-called Notified Bodies.
Notified Bodies carry out the tasks pertaining to the conformity assessment procedures referred to in the applicable technical harmonization legislation when a third party is required.
Signatory National Accreditation Bodies (NAB) to the EA MLA are evaluated by their peers regularly. The objective is to maintain mutual confidence amongst signatories that accreditation delivered by one of them is as reliable as accreditation delivered by the other signatories.
In practice, accreditation enhances acceptance of products and services across borders, without needing to repeat tests and certifications, thereby creating a global infrastructure to support trade and confidence in the marketplace.
Here you will find some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please contact us.
EA, the European cooperation for Accreditation is a not-for-profit association, registered in the Netherlands. It is formally appointed by the European Commission in Regulation (EC) No 765/2008 to develop and maintain a multilateral agreement of mutual recognition, the EA MLA, based on a harmonized accreditation infrastructure.
The EA MLA exists to facilitate fair trade, ensure product and service quality and reduce technical barriers to trade.
EA currently has 50 Members. The EA Members are National Accreditation Bodies in Europe that are officially recognized by their national governments to assess and verify – against international standards – organizations that carry out conformity assessment activities such as certification, verification, inspection, testing and calibration.
Regulation (EC) No 765/2008 and the standards of the ISO/IEC 17000 series provide the set of rules to be used by EA and its National Accreditation Bodies.
The official definition of conformity assessment is: “Demonstration that specified requirements relating to a product, process, system, person or body are fulfilled” (definition in EN ISO/IEC 17000:2004 Conformity assessment – Vocabulary and general principles).
Due to the ever-increasing technical complexity of industry and business, it is becoming more and more important to be able to demonstrate that what is being supplied actually meets the requirements specified or claimed. Such a demonstration is called conformity assessment. Conformity assessment can be applied to a product (including, for these purposes, a service), a process, a system, a body or persons, and includes activities such as testing, inspection and certification.
In the field of accreditation, the impartiality rule requires that the Accreditation Body be impartial in making a decision on accreditation. It means that the AB shall not have any conflict of interest with the body applying for accreditation, and that the AB shall not be subject to any other pressure of a commercial or financial nature.
This is provided for in Article 8 of the European Commission’s Regulation (EC) 765/2008 relating to the “Requirements for NABs” which states “that a NAB shall be organized in such a manner as to make it independent of the CABs it assesses and of commercial pressures, and to ensure that no conflicts of interest with CABs occur.”
In practice, impartiality also means that the accreditation decision shall be made by persons different from those that conducted the assessment.
EA and its Accreditation Body Members shall be non-profit-making and -distributing organizations in order to meet their formal obligation to act in the public interest.
As such, accreditation must be operated under the following conditions:
- at national level, with a recognized mandate from the government
- with complete independence and impartiality
- with full accountability towards all interested parties, with no single interest or group of interests predominating
- as a non-profit-distributing service activity
- without any competition
Cross-frontier accreditation refers to the principles for cooperation between EA Members in the accreditation process when accreditation is granted by a foreign Accreditation Body i.e. by an Accreditation Body that is not the local Accreditation Body.
According to Regulation 765/2008 and the EA Cross-Border Accreditation Policy and Procedure for Cross-Border Cooperation between EA Members (EA-2/13), each Accreditation Body should primarily provide services to its local market. However, in exceptional cases, an Accreditation Body may provide accreditation in a country or economy of another Accreditation Body. In such cases, the principle of the policy is to encourage cooperation between the foreign Accreditation Bodies and the local Accreditation Bodies, and to support local accreditation by offering the local Accreditation Bodies the opportunity to sub-contract, participate in a joint assessment or observe the assessment.
This lies in Article 7.1 of Regulation (EC) 765/2008 providing that Conformity Assessment Bodies, whether third-party or first-party/in-house bodies, are required to request accreditation by the National Accreditation Body of the Member State in which they are established.
This general rule allows for exceptions. The option for a Conformity Assessment Body to request accreditation with a National Accreditation Body in another Member State is limited to cases where:
- there is no National Accreditation Body in its own Member State [Art. 7.1(a)]
- the National Accreditation Body does not offer the requested accreditation service [Art. 7.1(b)]
- the National Accreditation Body has not received a positive outcome in the peer evaluation in relation to the conformity assessment activity for which accreditation is requested [Article 7.1(c)]
Art. 7.1 Regulation (EC) 765/2008 is a logical consequence of the non-competition principle embodied in Article 6 of the same Regulation. It is important to prevent Conformity Assessment Bodies from shopping around for accreditation certificates, thus creating a “market for accreditation” leading to the commercialization of accreditation which jeopardizes the added value and role of accreditation as a public authority activity and last level of control in the conformity assessment chain.
The EA Multilateral Agreement (EA MLA) is a signed agreement between the EA Members whereby the signatories recognize and accept the equivalence of the accreditation systems operated by the signing members, and also the reliability of the conformity assessment results provided by Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs) accredited by the signing members. It makes the objective ‘Accredited once, accepted everywhere’ effective.
The benefits of the EA MLA for Industry can be summarized as follow:
- Boosting competitiveness: with the EA MLA, businesses can differentiate their services by providing objective evidence of technical competence, impartiality and compliance with international requirements and avoid the costs of re-testing;
- Reducing controls and increasing quality: importing goods and services with an EA MLA accredited report or certificate can be both less risky and cheaper as businesses do not need to provide additional evidence;
Supporting export: as the EA MLA is recognized internationally, its opens new opportunities on the global market by eliminating barriers to trade.
To confirm the validity of reports from Conformity Assessment Bodies, you should refer in the first instance to the Body that issued the report.
The certificate shall bear the accreditation mark of the Accreditation Body that accredited the Conformity Assessment Body.
Then you must check that the Accreditation Body is a signatory to the EA MLA for the activity you are interested in. For instance, if you need a test report covered by accreditation and the EA MLA, you should check that the report contains a reference to accreditation, an accreditation mark, and an accreditation number; you should also check that the Accreditation Body that granted accreditation is a signatory to the EA MLA for testing.
To find the Accreditation Body, visit the “Directory of EA Members and MLA Signatories” page
If the certificate is issued under the organization’s scope of accreditation then the certificate should be recognized in those countries whose National Accreditation Bodies are signatory to the EA, IAF & ILAC multilateral agreement. Details of these agreements on “The EA MLA” page.
The mark of an EA MLA signatory on certificates and reports issued by accredited Conformity Assessment Bodies acts as a “passport to trade”. The confidence this accreditation brings eliminates the need for suppliers to be certified in each country in which they sell their products or services, and therefore provides the framework for goods and services to cross borders in Europe and throughout the world.
Five steps to check the reliability of a certificate or a report:
- Check that there is an accreditation mark on the report or certificate.
- Check that the accreditation mark is of an Accreditation Body signatory to the EA, ILAC or IAF MLA.
- Check that your supplier is accredited for the competence, the tests and the results you need.
- Check that the tests have been carried out against international standards. Alternatively, check that the standards and methods used can be accepted in the country of destination.
- In case of problems, contact the National Accreditation Body.
It is possible to ascertain whether the National Accreditation Body is a signatory for the scope by checking the directory of EA MLA signatories.
To find the Accreditation Body in the country you want to export to, visit the “Directory of EA Members and MLA Signatories” page
EA itself does not undertake any calibration, testing, certification, inspection or verification activities and therefore does not issue any reports.
Testing, calibration, certification, inspection and verification are conformity assessment services performed by Conformity Assessment Bodies, laboratories or inspection, verification or certification bodies.
To find an accredited CAB, visit the “Directory of EA Members and MLA Signatories” page and search for the National Accreditation Body and the scope you are interested in.
Complaints shall first be lodged with the Accreditation Body that accredited the Conformity Assessment Body in question.
It is only when the complaint process at NAB level has been exhausted that EA will consider a complaint at EA level.
Complaints and appeals received may concern decisions and activities of EA or EA Members, or Conformity Assessment Bodies accredited by EA Members.
All complaints must be addressed in writing in English to the EA Secretariat by email (email@example.com) or ground mail (European co-operation for Accreditation -75 avenue Parmentier 75011 Paris – France).
EA considers all complaints and appeals as a possible opportunity to improve its services and implement corrective and preventive action measures.
For further information, read EA-1/17 S3 A: 2018 EA Procedure For the investigation and Resolution of Complaints and Appeals
EA encourages the use of its publications and communications materials.
EA’s publications and brochures may be printed or distributed in full without need for formal permission from EA.
Organizations seeking permission to translate EA publications must contact the EA Secretariat. The request for permission should clearly detail:
- the EA publication, or part thereof, for which permission is sought;
- where the translated material will appear and what it will be used for;
- any other background information that may assist EA in granting permission.
The translated document must contain a statement acknowledging EA’s ownership and copyright.
For further details, contact Amandine Combe – Marketing & Communications Manager (firstname.lastname@example.org )
Accreditation is a decision made by the Accreditation Body.
Notification is a decision made by the national authorities in the Member States.
Accreditation is the technical basis used by national authorities to notify a Conformity Assessment Body.
The European Commission maintains the NANDO website which lists all notified organizations across Europe.