A service standard helps to define what a customer can expect from a service and how it should be delivered by the service provider, e.g. in terms of timeliness, accuracy and suitability. Up to now, the development of such standards has been limited. As announced in the Standardisation Package of June 2016, the European Commission aims to prioritise and incentivise the development of voluntary European service standards. The Commission is also working with CEN to develop service standards in the areas of performance measurement, service contracts and service procurement.
A service standard specifies requirements that should be fulfilled by a service to establish its fitness for purpose. The standard may provide definitions, indicators of service quality and their levels, or specify a time period for delivery, such as the standard on handling customer complaints.
Standards for services can help Europe's service providers and their customers, by raising the quality of the services provided. This can be in terms of safety or improved communication between a service provider and its customer. Service standards can also give consumers and clients more confidence, reduce costs and open up markets for businesses.
However, the development of these standards has been limited. According to some estimates, they only account for 2% of all EU standards, even though services account for 70% of the EU economy. In addition, differing national standards can fragment the Single Market for services.
The Services Directive encourages the development of European standards in order to improve compatibility between services, information to the recipient and the quality of service provision. Regulation (EU) 1025/2012 provides a legal basis for their development.
Commission guidance on standardisation in services
As announced in the Single Market Strategy, the Commission issued a dedicated Staff Working Document on standardisation in services. In it, the Commission puts forward a number of measures that will help prioritise and incentivise the development of voluntary European service standards (including helping to identify areas where European service standards are not needed or are lower priority), reduce obstacles stemming from national standards and certification schemes, and improve information to service providers.
Horizontal service standards
In 2013, the Commission mandated the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) to come up with specific proposals on topics for horizontal service standards. In February 2015, CEN identified 6 possible areas: service terminology, information to the customer, service procurement, service contracts, customer satisfaction measurement and performance measurement. On the basis of this, the Commission asked, and CEN agreed, to start developing standards in the following three areas: performance measurement, service contracts and service procurement. Work on these horizontal service standards started in the beginning of 2016.