The inspection and certification body Cotecna currently acts as both a certification body and accreditation body, in violation of ISO 17021-1 rules which prohibit the practice.

The Indian office of Cotecna, which has its headquarters in France, was granted an ISO 9001 certificate by AB Certification, even while it held ISO 17021-1 accreditation from the Indian body NABCB. On its website at www.cotecna.com, the company simultaneously offers accredited ISO 9001 certification, while boasting of its own ISO 9001 certificate.

ISO 9001 certificate issued to Cotecna showing Indian office covered by scope of accreditation. (Click to enlarge)

ISO 17021-1 prohibits one CB from issuing an ISO  9001 certificate to another CB, as an accreditation body cannot simultaneously act as a certification body. The understanding is that it is an insurmountable conflict of interest for a CB to also act as an AB. This can result in two specific conflicts: the body would find itself competing in the CB market against its own clients, thus jeopardizing its impartiality, or could end up accrediting its own CB clients.

The Indian office also provides accredited inspections under ISO 17020.

Listing from NABCB website showing Cotecna Inspection India’s ISO 17021-1 accreditation for issuance of ISO 9001 certificates.

The issue shows the complicated maze of certification and accreditation rules which often go unenforced by oversight bodies, either due to confusion or incompetence. The ISO 9001 certificate was issued by AB Certification and accredited by the French body COFRAC, while the ISO 17021-1 accreditation was issued by NABCB. It is therefore difficult to fully understand which body erred first.

For now, Oxebridge has filed a formal complaint with AB Certifications in France. However, it may be discovered that NABCB is the party that violated international rules in accrediting Cotecna without knowing they already held ISO 9001 certification. Likewise, COFRAC may be the final party found responsible.

Copies of the complaint were sent to COFRAC, NABCB, the International Accreditation Forum (IAF), and the Asia Pacific Accreditation Cooperation (APAC). None of the bodies appears to have noticed the problem, which has gone on since at least 2020.

Oxebridge identified a similar conflict for the CB Russian Register, which had been granted an ISO 9001 certificate by the British body URS, even as it held ISO 17021-1 accreditation. In that case, URS withdrew the ISO 9001 certificate in response to Oxebridge’s filing.

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Since 2000, Oxebridge has worked to improve ISO and related certification schemes by identifying problems and then proposing solutions. We report on issues affecting standards users because so few other news outlets do. Our belief is that in order to fix the problems in these schemes, we must first understand the nature and breadth of those problems. Our reporting aims to do just that. Elsewhere on the Oxebridge site you will find White Papers and other articles proposing ideas to correct these problems.

3 Comments

  1. mudassar

    As apparently appears from the information given in the article, it seems that there is nothing illegal in this case. Because the certification of ISO 9001 was granted for the scope of inspection activities not for the certification activities as per ISO 17021. ISO 17021 prohibits that CB cannot certify quality management system of another CB but it does not restrict certification of quality management system of an inspection body.

    • Christopher Paris

      This is simply not true. The Indian office of Cotecna clearly sells BOTH management system certification AND product inspection / certification services. You can see this at https://www.cotecna.com/en/services/certification. That makes Cotecna India a CB, which means another CB cannot issue an ISO 9001 certificate to Cotecna India. Scopes do not matter.

  2. mudassar

    As apparently appears from the information given in the article, it seems that there is nothing illegal in this case. Because the certification of ISO 9001 was granted for the scope of inspection activities not for the certification activities as per ISO 17021.

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