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INCOLAB final conference

The coordinating institution organized the INCOLAB final conference, which took place in Bled, Slovenia, at Hotel Golf. Presentations of all speakers at the conference are available at Discussion held is summarized here. Mr. Gaber Begea expressed a concern that testing of measuring instruments was suggested to be performed by Notified Bodies (NB), which represented potential conflict of interest with manufacturers.

Prof. Janko Drnovaek explained the current situation of market inspection in Slovenia with regards to the testing laboratories. Market inspectorate (MI) has a certain amount of budget from the ministry of economy. MI invites the interested testing laboratories to offer the testing and quote the price of testing. Although the price of testing may vary according to the requirements of standard, the final situation is reverse. Namely, for the certain budget of the MI testing laboratories have to offer a price, which is related to a larger number of test items. Consequently the price of test per item is lower and doesn't cover all costs.

Mr. Frantiaek Jelinek from the Czech Republic suggested that a risk analysis performed in the scope of such a project could help a lot to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), who could not afford themselves such an analysis. Mr. Janez Renko from Chamber of Commerce in Slovenia explained that market inspection in Europe was exposed to very intensive import of products with low quality, which represented an enormous challenge and mainly difficulties, which were solved variously in different countries. He mentioned the workshop related to market inspection in Europe, which was held in April this year and was mainly dealing with a large problem of counterfeits. They became so good that it was many times hard to distinguish among them and originals. That represents a great challenge for market inspection and testing laboratories on the technical level. At the same time it is necessary to strengthen control of products also on administrative level. Market inspection must be in place and active but EC should consider how to coordinate activities of market inspections in the EU countries and other countries, if possible.

Mr. Pavel Klenovsky agreed that due to poor coordination of market inspection activities in the EU many test were probably duplicated in several countries, if not performed even many times. According to his knowledge no such analysis was performed so far.
Prof. Janko Drnovaek said that market inspection should be able among protection of consumers to protect also quality producers otherwise they would eventually decrease quality of their products with respect to the safety and lower production costs. Therefore it should never happen that in one- year market inspection did not perform any sampling of products in the market and sent them to testing to laboratories. It happened in Slovenia in 2002 because Market Inspection did not have any budget for this activity. Taxpayers paid their taxes while on the other hand the government did not fulfil its task. Not to mention that testing laboratories had their fixed costs regardless the number of tests performed.

Prof. Drnovaek tackled the problem of accreditation. Namely, accreditation bodies should have the responsibility of assuring a similar level of assessment not only on a national level of laboratories but also on the international level. It should not happen that a certain laboratory obtained better measurement capabilities due to inexperienced or incompetent technical assessor. Assessors are hired by accreditation bodies but they both should be self-critical enough to admit in certain cases that assessment is not merely an administrative procedure but primarily technical work, which requires experience and knowledge at least on the level of assessed laboratory.

Mr. Peter Vrtacnik from Slovenia said that there was obviously no intention in Europe to harmonise the market inspection approach. Mr. Cor van der Ploeg from the Netherlands said that a real solution was enforcement. Theoretically it is possible to join all inspections in one but there is no competition any more. Market inspection without knowledge (good relations with experts, testing laboratories, centres of excellence) is powerless. In the past he mentioned times of "separation fever", when many institutions were separated. The result was their ineffectiveness with time because of broken connections.

Prof. Janko Drnovaek made a summary of the round table discussion. Conformity assessment is obviously far from ideal state for various reasons. Market inspection is not playing a protective role, as it should. Unambiguous understanding of standards is not good enough, therefore standards should be developed requiring related knowledge and closer cooperation of testing and metrology. The results of INCOLAB projects will be promoted within other projects, if possible within EUROMET as well.

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University of Ljubljana
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