Many installers feel that the pricing of BS and PAS documentation is prohibitive. Stuart Duff puts the questions to BSI Group about the cost of standards.
How is the pricing of British Standards structured?
For clients who purchase directly from BSI, British Standards are priced either for individual purchase or can be accessed as part of an online subscription, following the agreed international model. The latter is generally the most cost-effective way for users accessing multiple standards. There are up to 50% discounts on these prices for BSI clients who take out BSI Membership and so we work with our clients to make the most affordable purchase according to their circumstances.
The cost of standards takes into consideration the many hours of work involved in their creation through the expert committees and open public consultation – typically over a period of three to five years in advance of the final document publishing, and the volume of content. There are broader associated costs such as maintaining and revising these standards over a lengthy lifetime, in funding European and international standards bodies’ membership to ensure UK industry and other stakeholder input for these standards, extensive travel costs to meetings and the training of our people and experts.
British Standards can also be purchased from a number of channels to market beyond BSI whose end price we do not control.
Please note that standards aren’t the same as regulation – they are voluntary. If organizations want to use them, they must purchase them. However, ‘view only’ access is provided by certain outlets as detailed in our response under question two.
Is there a sliding scale of costs based on the size of a business so that sole traders aren’t hamstrung by the outlay?
As covered above, we operate a Membership scheme that provides a healthy (up to 50%) discount on single standards and Subscription purchases and gives access to our Knowledge Centre for supporting queries. The cost of Membership is priced in bands, and the one you fall into depends on the number of employees, annual turnover, annual sales, subscribing income or population.
Details of this can be found on our membership page: shop.bsigroup.com/Navigate-by/Membership
At present, ‘view only’ access is provided by the British Library, some other 15 Public Libraries (this number changes year on year) and some trade associations. View only access is a facility that we are extending where possible.
How is PAS pricing determined?
PAS is a form of fast track consensus standard and is a service provided by BSI to a group of sponsoring stakeholders who contribute to its development. The pricing for any individual PAS is determined during its development again reflecting anticipated market interest, scale of content and the ongoing maintenance and development of the document over its lifetime. Some sponsors request that the PAS documents are made available free of charge to download and this is built into the cost of the project.
How is the revenue accrued reinvested?
BSI is a Royal Charter Company and is governed by its Royal Charter and Bye-laws. As it has no share capital, BSI is what is termed a ‘non-profit distributing company’ because profits are reinvested back into the business.
Developing and maintaining a diverse portfolio of standards is costly as the market for any individual standard varies significantly. This reinvestment helps to fund our broad portfolio of work and keep the UK committee experts active in all European and International standards making activity that is relevant to our geography and their sector interests. Our income supports not only involvement in the development of new standards, but the maintenance of the existing UK portfolio of 37,000 British Standards and 1,200 technical committees; in funding the UK’s membership of ISO, IEC, CEN, CENELEC, ETSI and participation in other industry bodies; our continued investment in ensuring we remain a viable operating entity; in our engagement activity with industry, consumer and government stakeholders; in maintaining appropriate international, regional and bilateral relations for the benefit of UK industry; in the technology we deploy; in our e-business capability; and in supporting strategic acquisitions relevant and complementary to our purpose and self-sustaining status.
Is there a risk that not making British Standards freely available is hindering the ability to uphold best practice?
No. A single copy of a standard may seem expensive to some purchasers, however in comparison with other commercially produced publications, it is hugely valuable in terms of the information it contains and the business advantage it confers through market access and competitive advantage. Adopting and benefitting from best practice requires investment of time and resources. Investing in standards is a cost-effective approach that offers great value for money compared to other information products that businesses have to buy routinely.