ISO 9001 for quality management systems is arguably the most popular standard globally with nearly 885000 certificates worldwide as per ISO Survey 2019. Published in 1987 and touted as a gateway to European market initially, it has become a prerequisite in most markets around the world and is a brand by itself.
This unprecedented popularity has predictably led to mushrooming of certification bodies and questionable certifications. The world market is now full of private certification bodies issuing certificates to industry and it is important to distinguish an authentic certificate from many unauthentic, fraudulent or even fake or counterfeit certificates going around.
An authentic certificate should contain the following:
- Name and address of the organization certified
- Scope of certification describing its activities under certification – e.g. production, packing and sale of dairy products like …….(broad list of products)
- Standard (or sometimes scheme or regulation) against which certification is granted e.g. ISO 9001 or ISO 22000 (standard) or AS 9100 or FSSC 22000 (scheme) – in general guidance standards (e.g. ISO 10002 or ISO 31000) are not amenable to certification – these have to be formal, requirement standards or specifications
- Date of issue and expiry of certificate
- Unique identification number of the certificate
- Name and address of the certification body (CB)
- Logo of the certification body
- Accreditation symbol indicating the name of the accreditation body (AB) which has accredited the certification body (in most countries, in the absence of any law requiring certification bodies to register, accreditation is the only way of recognizing a competent, authentic certification body)
- IAF Mark – indicating that the certificate is covered under the Multilateral Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MLA) of the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and hence is internationally equivalent and acceptable in the market
To check the validity of an ISO 9001 Certificate you need to follow the steps given below:
- Get a copy of the ISO 9001 certificate
- Check whether the certificate is issued for ISO 9001:2015. If YES, go to next step; if it is for ISO 9001:2008 or earlier, the certificate has expired and is not valid
- Check whether the certificate has the logo of the certification body (CB) and the accreditation body (AB). If it does not have logo of the AB, its an unaccredited certificate and even if legally valid, it would not be part of the international system and the CB is not under any oversight. Request your CB to issue an accredited certificate or change your CB.
- If the certificate carries logo of the AB also, check if the AB is part of the IAF (International Accreditation Forum) system – its name can be checked from the IAF website www.iaf.nu for each country. If the AB is listed there, the certificate is likely to be genuine. If not, the certificate is not authentic and seek an authentic certificate under IAF system.
- Check whether the certificate carries the logo of IAF; you can find the sample image of IAF logo on IAF website. If YES the certificate is likely to be genuine and indicates its internationally equivalent. if NO the certificate may not be internationally equivalent. Note that use of IAF Mark is optional and its absence does not necessarily mean the certificate is not internationally equivalent.
- IAF is creating a database of certificates – see link https://www.iafcertsearch.org/ – you can verify your certificate on this website. However, this database is new and is in the process of being developed – so absence of your certificate on this website does not mean your certificate is not genuine.
- All CBs are authorized to issue certificates for specific Standards and Scope Sectors for which they have been accredited by the respective ABs.
- If the certificate carries AB name and the AB is listed on the IAF website, then go to the AB website.
- Each AB maintains a register of accredited CBs – locate the list of CBs for ISO 9001 (or any other standard like ISO 14001 or ISO 45001 in which you may be interested).
- You will be able to view the list of CBs accredited by the AB. Are you able to find the name of the CB of your interest? If YES, go to next Step; if NO go to Step 15.
- Click on the name of the CB selected and check whether the CB is authorized to certify for Scope Sector under which your activity falls e.g 04 for Textiles, 19 for Electrical goods; and
- If the CB is accredited for the scope sector, the certificate is likely to be VALID.
- Each CB is obliged to provide a means of verifying its certificates – you can use the mechanism to verify that the certificate is in CB’s database especially if your certificate has been issued through a franchisee of a foreign CB.
- Many ABs maintain a list of certificates issued under their accreditation and you can check your certificate on AB’s website.
- If the CB does not figure on AB website, get in touch with the AB – the certificate is fraudulent as it uses AB’s or even IAF logo without authorization. Take up with the CB and take whatever action is possible in your economy legally.
- In case you still have doubt, refer the copy of the certificate to the nearest AB in your economy. It will help you verify even from foreign AB member of IAF.
The same approach applies to verifying ISO certificate for any management systems standard say ISO 14001 or ISO 45001.