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Are Technical Standards Binding? (I)

Are Technical Standards Binding? (I)

18.04.2013 16:50
Autor: Petra Nováková, KSB

In this first part of a three-part series, we take a closer look at technical standards in the Czech Republic.

Czech technical standards are special written rules that contain a technical description of the given product, structure, material or any complex parts thereof. They also contain information on generally recognized technical solutions and basic legal requirements for construction, material, fire and hygiene safety as well as for protecting human health and the environment.

Technical standards are regulated by Act No. 22/1997, Coll., on Technical Requirements for Products (the “Act”). Pursuant to Article 4 of the Act, a Czech technical standard is a “document approved by an authorized legal entity for repeated or permanent use developed under the Act and marked with the initials ČSN, whose issuance was published in the Bulletin of the Office for Technical Standards, Metrology and Testing”. For general and repeated use, Czech technical standards provide rules, guidelines and characteristics or results of activities in order to help achieve the optimum degree of order in a given context.

Technical standards are necessary to ensure that legal regulations such as acts, governmental regulations and decrees of various state administrative and self-governing authorities are not overly burdened with technical details. Because legal regulations cannot cover all of the details mentioned in the standards, only basic conditions are set forth together with a reference to the relevant Czech technical standards and details on where particular solutions can be found. Thus, technical standards complement an otherwise incomplete legal requirement resulting from applicable law. References to technical standards aim to stipulate specific requirements contained in legal norms and to protect the interests and safety of the public.

Not binding, but...

The Act expressly provides that Czech technical standards are not generally binding, which the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic has also confirmed. According to the court, technical standards are considered qualified recommendations rather than orders; thus, they are not binding and are merely voluntary. The Constitutional Court also added that in many cases compliance with specific technical standards is required by law or decree. That is, the technical standards may need to be met for a particular activity if applicable law so determines. In such a case, the technical standards are binding to a certain extent.

The Constitutional Court stated that references to technical standards may either be exclusive (mandatory) or indicative. Exclusive references determine compliance with the technical standards to which they refer as the only way to comply with the legal regulation in question. As for indicative references, complying with a standard is one of several ways to fulfill the relevant legal regulation. A legal regulation’s general provisions may also be fulfilled by other means.
To sum up, technical standards are not generally binding except in cases expressly stipulated by a specific legal regulation. 

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