EAGLE Certification Group’s new Director of Business Development Ben Marchant has defended the company’s new “EAGLE Consultant Partner Program”, ignoring accusations that it violates ISO 17021’s requirements of a firewall between registrars and consultants. He characterized the questions about his company’s practices as “aggression.”
The EAGLE program promises to provide a list of “Preferred Consultants” on its website, but will only consider those consultants who deliver at least three clients that sign 3-year agreements for certification services with EAGLE. Oxebridge maintains this is an overt quid pro quo that not rewards consultants to steer their clients towards EAGLE, thereby injecting a conflict of interest into the objective conformity assessment process. EAGLE insists its program is intended to “evaluate” the performance of the consultant, and that it can only do so with certification clients.
ISO 17021, under which EAGLE is accredited, prohibits a CB from marketing its services as linked to any consultancy, or from indicating any preference to a single consultancy.
In an email exchange with Oxebridge, which challenged the program’s compliance with 17021, Mr. Marchant did not address the issue of conflicts of interest, and instead made the claim that giving “Preferred” status to consultants that landed sales for EAGLE was necessary:
To become a Consultant Preferred, there must be a minimum of 3 referrals to EAGLE which have gone through to certification. On this hand, I understand your concerns, and if that was the extent of our program I would agree with you. But on the other, you missed the most important feature of the program – should a consultant wish to become a Consultant Preferred, EAGLE will assess the quality of work done by the consultant at these 3 clients, talk with the certifying auditor, and contact the clients with a set list of questions focusing on their satisfaction. Rather than any underhanded or desperate tactics, we’re focusing on ensuring that any listed on our webpage of resources on how to find a consultant, provide a quality service with the competencies needed.
Oxebridge VP Christopher Paris dismissed this:
By only assessing those that send you work, you have rigged the game so that the consultant’s preference of EAGLE is the very first thing you take into consideration, rather it being either the last, or not a criteria at all.
Despite claiming that he was seeking “feedback on how to address any perceived weakness,” Mr. Marchant doubled-down, and accused Oxebridge of a personal attack:
We disagree. By working with clients that we have certified, we are able to talk with the auditor. Should the certification be carried out by another CB, we would be unable to talk with the auditor to the same extent given confidentiality.
As stated, if you would like to contribute to the building of a program that you feel is better I’m all ears. I’m unsure of the reason for the kind of aggression you are showing toward EAGLE and myself, but wish you the best for the future.
“Clearly he’s not all ears, since he’s angrily dismissing criticism” said Mr. Paris. “And he’s utterly tone-deaf on the spirit and law of ISO 17021. There is no reason in the world that they cannot assess consultants at large, other than they want consultants to act as a commission-free sales force.”
Mr. Paris also dismissed the claim that EAGLE can only talk with auditors who interacted with the client. “They are inventing rules that don’t exist, while ignoring the ones that do.”
The issue has been reported informally to ANAB, who is now investigating.
Mr. Marchant was brought on to EAGLE only recently, in April 2014, and this appears to be his first, out-of-the-box sales initiative.
Silent throughout the debacle has been EAGLE’s President Skip Greenaway, who had what Mr. Paris called “a positive relationship” with Oxebridge until this point.
Oxebridge has removed EAGLE from its list of registrar contacts pending a resolution. “We are not putting clients in front of a registrar that wants to engage in pay-to-play,” said Mr. Paris. “We don’t promote any registrar, but we do provide basic contact information. In the case of those registrars we perceive to be engaged in unethical behavior, we deny them even that.”