The website ISOUpdate.com claims to be an “independent website that aims to provide information, resources, and updates around the Standards and Certification industry,” but if you scratch the surface this doesn’t appear quite true.
They popped up over on the Facebook ISO 9001 Users Group, when someone posted a link to ISOUpdate. I thought it might have violated the no-spam policy, but the website purports to carry news, so I figured it was fine: no overt promotion. Then I started looking deeper and noticed a few things.
First, in its allegedly “independent” listing of certification bodies, The Registrar Company (of Guelph ON) is listed first. Next to that, are two giant ads for TRC as well; these ads appear to be “sticky” in that they are permanent. I spotted a few other ads for other CBs buried here and there, but not in the prominent right-side sticky spot, and those are driven instead by Google Ads, not ads manually inserted into the site’s code like the TRC ads. Meanwhile, the ISOUpdate Twitter feed “liked” ad posts published by TRC, while I couldn’t find them doing the same for any other registrar.
Then I went back to Facebook and noticed that the person posting the link to the ISOUpdate website was a new marketing person from, of course, TRC. So this wasn’t proving to be difficult. When I posted a comment that the ISOUpdate website lacked actual independent journalism, and was merely republishing press releases and running CB ads, the marketing rep just replied by posting the link to the ISOUpdate website again, as if spamming. I called her out, and she said she was “new” to the industry — whatever — so I asked her outright: did TRC own and operate the ISOUpdate website?
At which point she immediately deleted the entire post, along with all the comments and my question about TRC. Nerve touched, apparently.
Checking the Whois records for the ISOUpdate website shows they went a bit out of their way to hide their identity, using anonymizer services to mask the registrant. Both websites for ISOUpdate and TRC use GoDaddy as the registrar, but TRC didn’t mask their identity, and their domain is clearly traceable back to the actual Guelph office. There’s no office at all listed for ISOUpdate.com.
On the ISOUpdate website itself, there are no staff listing. Posts are made purely anonymously, without credited writers or bloggers listed. There’s no address, no phone number. Just a generic email address and a generic web form to submit comments. The site claims to have a “team” of writers, but not a single human being is mentioned, anywhere.
Over on the TRC website, a prior publication from Sept. 2015, entitled “Message from the President,” includes a note under a section “TRC News” that reads, “In an attempt to provide our clients with qualified local auditors, we have begun using the website isoupdate.com to post all of our open sub-contract auditing assignments that we are looking to fill.” That publication, however, has since been deleted from the TRC website and is only available using a Google cache view. Searches for “ISOupdate” on the live site come up entirely empty now.
None of this is particularly in violation of any ISO accreditation standards, mind you, so it’s not clear why TRC is being so shady about it. The site offers bland press release with the usual pro-ISO spin, and then has a fairly long list of registrars as well as consultants. Even if the site was openly marketed as a TRC offshoot, since they are being fairly agnostic about who they promote, and since the site itself isn’t a “consultancy,” they’re in the clear as far as conflicts of interest.
They do accept ad dollars, though, but I can’t think of a reason that violates any rules either. Still, it would be interesting to know where you send the money to if you buy an ad: Guelph, I’d bet. Oh, wait, the ISOUpdate site uses PayPal to process payments, so you wouldn’t find that out, either.
Finally, I just went to the horse’s mouth and wrote to TRC President Michael Delisle. Here’s his reply:
No – it is a separate company. I have invested funds in ISOUpdate. However, I currently have a small interest in TRC as well but is treated completely separate. I have no day-to-day responsibilities at TRC.
When I suggested this still seemed shady, Delisle wrote back:
Not shady at all. I originally sent emails to all Registrars explaining our new site and that I was an investor.
But, of course, none of that appears on the ISOUpdate website.
So while claiming the site is “independent” is likely a fib — a mild one, admittedly — it just seems TRC is paranoid. It also sucks for any CB dumb enough to buy an ad on the site, since it will never get the same top-listing status as TRC. But I suppose on the spectrum of shady behavior by ISO 9001 certification bodies, this barely registers given what we’re used to seeing. So far, TRC hasn’t appeared once in any of the 60+ investigations Oxebridge is running, so that’s good; they’re generally keeping their noses clean. But seriously, is this cloak-and-dagger stuff really necessary?
But I suppose it’s naive to ever expect transparency and clarity to intrude upon the ISO 9001 certification scheme.
(This is why I don’t run ads on this site.)
Anyway, I am personally just frustrated that we can’t seem to have actual independent reporting in this profession, other than what you find here and on ISOWatch.
About Christopher Paris
Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 30 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001:2015. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.