Sources have reported to Oxebridge that a number of  certification bodies (CBs) located in India and the Middle East received  warnings from their Accreditation Body that fictional companies were being used in “mystery shopper” investigations intended to identify violations in accreditation rules. The CBs have stopped providing quotes to these companies, in order to help cover up any such violations.

The names of the CBs involved are all accredited by IAS, out of Norfolk VA. Oxebridge is conducting independent verification, however, as the warnings may not have been sent by IAS, but instead by someone else related to the industry. The IAS connection may prove to be a coincidence.

If proven, it would give more evidence of the lengths to which CBs and ABs go in order to hide their activities.

Separate sources indicate that at least one informal discussion was held by a handful of members of the US-based certification body group International Association of Accredited Registrars (IAAR) out of Washington DC. The US registrars reportedly dismissed the concern of being “mystery shopped.”

“Mystery shopping” is the act where an undercover individual or company approaches another company, typically a retailer, posing as a customer in order to test compliance with rules, laws or company policies. The practice is legal, provided the information is not done by a competitor in order to steal away customers or otherwise engage in fraudulent activity. The Indian Accreditation Board NABCB has admitted to hiring private detectives to engage in mystery shopping in order to root out corrupt CBs under its accreditation banner.

A number of the ISO Whistleblower reports were clearly provided by at least two mystery shopper companies set up to uncover violations of ISO 17021 and ISO 17011.

Oxebridge does not know the identity of the mystery shoppers or, in many cases, the individuals filing the Whistleblower reports. It does verify the veracity of the information provided, however, before pursuing any formal complaints.

Rather then strengthen their compliance to the accreditation rules so that mystery shopper investigations find nothing, the CBs and ABs seem intent on continuing their questionable practices while making it harder for investigators to uncover them.