The use of Cetie documents in case of litigation

Par Nicholas Harris
Le 16/10/2018
Compliance with standards and good industrial practices throughout the bottling value chain is essential to guarantee that the finished product purchased by the end-user gives entire satisfaction. Thus, the characteristics of supplies for bottling are usefully subject to specifications that accompany the commercial agreement and include the references to standards that are to apply.
The bottling operation that uses these supplies must in turn be carried out observing the applicable good practices and the bottling machine manufacturers' instructions.
Obviously, in the event of a quality problem that has financial and/or legal consequences, responsibilities will be established by identifying discrepancies concerning the applicable frames of reference. The documents thus referenced must be considered authoritative in case of litigation.

State of the art

To be recognised as authoritative, standard or good practice guidelines must represent the state of the art, established consensually by a group of experts which has the necessary collective competencies and is governed by procedures that ensure the relevance and impartiality of these documents. CEN or ISO international standards benefit clearly from such recognition because they are produced under procedures intended to ensure a very broad consensus of all the stakeholders from several countries and are subject to public enquiries in the member countries of these organisations. To adopt a new work item for developing an international standard, at least five national standards organisations must undertake to provide experts to take part in the work.
Stakeholders from an industrial sector can also organise themselves to establish reference documents following equivalent processes to ensure the recognition of these documents by industry at large. Good industrial practices specific to a given type of operation are usually established by such organisations, of which Cetie is an example. In this case, the document preparation and approval circuits essentially remain between the experts who participate actively in the process and the organisation must provide the framework which ensures that the content represents a broad consensus within the sectors concerned. For documents of this type, opening up the approval procedure to the public clearly brings no added value. It is worth pointing out that even with international standards, public participation in such procedures remains somewhat theoretical in the case of technical standards such as closure systems. Indeed, when public enquiries are held, virtually all of the comments and correction proposals come from technical experts, which is hardly surprising.

Practice guidelines can constitute a basis for judging

Even though good practice guidelines are not standards, they nonetheless constitute a basis for judging the appropriateness of the means implemented by a bottler. Consequently, an expert mandated in the context of legal proceedings would refer to the good practices set out, for example, in a Cetie Bottling Guide, to support and consolidate their analysis. A bottler is therefore assumed to be familiar with, and implement, the published good practices available for the industry. Good practice guidelines effectively differ from standards in that application of a standard is inherently voluntary. A standard is never automatically applicable. It must be referenced, for example in the specifications of a commercial supply agreement to become binding between the signatory parties. Application of a standard can also be made mandatory if it is referenced in an applicable regulatory text (in which case it is available free of charge). It is also worth mentioning that the "harmonised" CEN standards which, through a mandate transmitted to the CEN and an approval procedure, both of which are specific at the EU Commission level, become a means of demonstrating conformity with the "essential requirements" of the "New Approach" directives. In the area of bottling, this is particularly the case with the EN 13427 to EN 13432 series of standards for compliance with the essential requirements of the "Packaging and Packaging Waste" Directive 94/62/EC.

Needs and pace of the industry

Even in this case, the use of the standards is not obligatory; an operator is theoretically free to use other appropriate means to ensure the conformity to this legislation of the packaging it puts onto the market. The standards published by national agencies (national or international standards) benefit from special recognition and status and can, as standards approved by government authorities, be referenced in regulations. Nevertheless, even if efforts are made to render the international standardisation process effective and accessible, there necessarily remains a degree of formality to respect which does not necessarily fit in with the needs and pace of the industry.
Cetie was created in 1960,
to facilitate the development of bottling standards by providing drafts already developed by industry experts, where necessary following a phase of industrial tests, and by providing support during the standardisation process. The aim was to promote the standards produced in this way as unique references for the industry, to counter the tendency towards increasing numbers of variants. Cetie today conserves its status as a "pre-standardisation" organisation and participates actively – and financially via Afnor – in the CEN standardisation relating to bottling. If at the end of the procedure a Cetie specification becomes a CEN standard, it is systematically removed from the available Cetie publications and the Cetie reference cross-refers to the superseding standard. ? However, as Cetie is recognised internationally as a source of reference technical documentation and deemed to be authoritative, the groups of experts can decide in certain cases that there is not necessary to propose a Cetie specification as a basis for a CEN/ISO standard. A Cetie reference effectively has the same value as a CEN/ISO standard in a supply contract if the signatory parties recognise it – a consequence of the voluntary nature of any standard. This is the case in particular for the working group that develops the specifications for PET bottle finishes, which is more accustomed to working with the specifications of organisations such as Cetie or ISBT (International Society of Beverage Technologists), which can be more readily adopted in the context of evolving markets.
N. Harris - Cetie General Secretary for french Magazine Liquides & Conditionnement N°396
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