The United Accreditation Forum (UAF) has ended its investigation of the ISO 9001 registrar TNV Certifications Ltd. without addressing nearly half of the allegations put to it. In a letter to Oxebridge, UAF representative Yuliya Lalova declared it had concluded its investigation but “shall continue to monitor the actions” of TNV.

In its response, UAF followed unwritten industry practice by paraphrasing the actual complaint into a smaller set of “bullet points,” and then addressed those points instead. In doing so, UAF ignored nearly half of the allegations raised against TNV which claimed the registrar had failed to comply with ISO 17021 requirements for the processing of complaints.

“Openness to complaints” is one of eight key principles defined in ISO 17021, and a core concept that all certification bodies must adhere to. Nevertheless, Oxebridge provided evidence that TNV failed to properly investigate the original complaint sent to it; TNV’s CEO rejected the complaint only 40 minutes after receiving it, and then threatened legal action against Oxebridge for filing it in the first place.

TNV then escalated the matter by falsely accusing Oxebridge of “extortion,” claiming that Oxebridge was trying to squeeze money from it, and that Oxebridge had “vested interests” in doing so. This resulted in Oxebridge submitting a second complaint to the UAF with the new information.

At no point did Oxebridge ask for money from TNV. The information related to the complaint came from international whistleblowers who — independent of Oxebridge — submitted their information through the ISO Whistleblower Program. In other cases, representatives of TNV approached Oxebridge directly through unsolicited spam mails, asking to form a partnership.

The UAF response ignored the second complaint entirely, and then ignored all the allegations from the first complaint related to TNV’s refusal to comply with ISO 17021 rules on complaints handling. UAF representative Lalova later said the second complaint was never received.

In a bizarre move, the UAF claimed to have investigated Oxebridge — something it has no international authority to do — in order to verify if TNV’s baseless claim of “extortion” was with merit. UAF concluded that no such claim could be verified, writing:

As regards TNV’s claim about Oxebridge’s vested interest, UAF was unable to conclude based on evidence provided by the CB.

UAF is a member of the International Accreditation Forum and operates under a different standard, ISO 17011, which is aimed at accreditation bodies. That standard does not provide for an accreditation body to “investigate” complainants, and actually prohibits bodies from taking actions against them.

UAF’s response to the allegations it did look into was also found lacking. One allegation made by Oxebridge was based on evidence that showed consultants offering simultaneous consulting alongside certification, or offering flat-rate pricing before any consideration of audit duration was calculated. The UAF ruled that “quoting a flat rate does not per se imply violation of IAF MD 5 as has been alleged,” without explaining how an audit fee could be calculated without consideration of audit duration. Instead, UAF claimed, “it has been verified that the CB complies with IAF MD 5 in quoting to the prospective clients.”

Indian registrars have adopted a practice of providing “low-ball” quotes prior to contract, and then correcting them afterwards. The accreditation bodies UAF and IAS have both supported the practice, which Oxebridge asserts amounts to illegal bait-and-switch.

With regard to the allegation related to consulting, UAF ignored entire clauses of ISO 17021 to ensure TNV was not sanctioned. UAF justified its decision by writing, “It has been verified that while marketing emails may be sent to several organizations by its marketing staff, CB enters into MoUs only with those entities which do not offer consultancy.” The ISO 17021 standard, however, dedicates three clauses to requiring certification bodies to “take action” against any bodies — whether part of the CB or external to it — when they link certification with consulting.

Oxebridge has partially rejected UAF’s response and is demanding it continue its investigation to address all the allegations made in the original complaints.

The complaint was already escalated to the IAF regional body APAC, which has also refused to process it, despite its international obligations to do so.

Oxebridge conducted an independent investigation using private investigators to unmask the leadership behind UAF. The organization has relied on the use of obfuscated addresses and names to make it difficult to identify the people behind it.

 

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