• Information on standards
  • Are standards laws?

Are standards laws?

The use of standards is voluntary. Standards only become binding if they are the subject of contracts between parties or if compliance with them is mandatory by law. Companies may have a de facto obligation to apply standards, for example when they are stipulated in purchase conditions. Swiss suppliers are particularly affected if they export to EU countries and the contractual partners require compliance with European standards.

Pyramid of regulation

*Recognized standards of the standardization organizations ISO, IEC, ITU, CEN, CENELEC, ETSI, SNV, CES and asut

Market participants such as companies and associations are subject to a large number of internal and external regulations when conducting their business activities. Thus internal regulations – for example company standards or association guidelines – must be observed, as well as external regulations such as standards and laws. These are shown here in the pyramid of regulation.

*Recognized standards of the standardization organizations ISO, IEC, ITU, CEN, CENELEC, ETSI, SNV, CES and asut

In the pyramid of regulation, the level of obligation and size of the group of people affected increase from bottom to top. Compliance with an internal company standard is usually only binding for employees of the company concerned.

When it comes to compliance with an association guideline, there are already a number of companies and their members who are affected. As for the binding nature of ordinances and laws, there is no leeway at all. They are binding for all citizens of a country.

*Recognized standards of the standardization organizations ISO, IEC, ITU, CEN, CENELEC, ETSI, SNV, CES and asut

Looking at the parameter flexibility and level of detail in the pyramid of regulation, this increases from top to bottom. Laws and ordinances cannot simply be changed, they go through an established legislative process.

Laws and ordinances also serve rather to determine the legal framework and not to regulate the smallest technical details. However, when company standards and association guidelines should be created and changed, a much more flexible approach can be used.

*Recognized standards of the standardization organizations ISO, IEC, ITU, CEN, CENELEC, ETSI, SNV, CES and asut

Only the directives (laws or ordinances) issued by a government authority which has sovereign legislative competence on the basis of the constitution have a generally binding legal force.

Standards and guidelines of associations, on the other hand, are developed by private-law business organizations by way of self-regulation and are therefore not legally binding.

*Recognized standards of the standardization organizations ISO, IEC, ITU, CEN, CENELEC, ETSI, SNV, CES and asut

Recognized standards are the result of voluntary national, European and international standardization activities, and are developed by interested parties in a process of self-organization using the bottom-up approach.

This approach originates from the idea that the groups involved will themselves know best which standards are needed and effective in their own sector. Unlike internal company standards and association specifications, recognized standards are publicly accessible.

Legal certainty through standards

Only the directives (laws or ordinances) issued by a government authority which has sovereign legislative competence on the basis of the constitution have a generally binding legal force. Standards on the other hand are issued by private-law organizations which are not authorized to pass legislation. In Switzerland, the SNV is the recognized national standardization organization, legitimized by the Swiss Ordinance of 17 June 1996 on the Notification of Technical Regulations and Standards and the Duties of the Swiss Association for Standardisation (Notification Ordinance, NO – Verordnung vom 17. Juni 1996 über die Notifikation technischer Vorschriften und Normen sowie die Aufgaben der Schweizerischen Normen-Vereinigung, Notifikationsverordnung, NV, SR 946.511) and the agreement with the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs ( SECO).

Although standards are not laws, they nevertheless contribute to legal certainty. Standards are considered to be clear and recognized rules of technology, and compliance with standards is an important step in demonstrating due and proper conduct.

Find out more about standards

What are the benefits of standards?

Switzerland is an exporting country. The ability to systematically translate new findings and ideas into products, processes and services is decisive for the competitiveness of the Swiss economy.

Who writes the standards?

Standards are the result of national, European and international standardization activities, and are written by users for users using the bottom-up approach.

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