Standardization and legislation present some basic differences. Whereas standards are established by consensus of all
stakeholders and are approved and published by recognized Standardization Bodies, regulations are adopted by public authorities.
Moreover, the use of standards is voluntary whereas regulations are mandatory.
However, the standardization community and the public authorities sometimes strive towards similar - even common - objectives, in particular in the European Union. The further development of the internal market - enhancing competitiveness and facilitating global trade - the improvement of the welfare of citizens and the protection of the environment are examples thereof. It is therefore not surprising that standardization bodies cooperate with public authorities in a number of cases by developing standards in support of legislation and public policies.
In particular, as regards legislation, a law or regulation dealing with a product or a service can refer to standards that include the requested characteristics of the product or service in question, instead of specifying these characteristics itself. In addition to benefits in terms of simplification of legislation, such reference to standards allows the stakeholders to decide themselves - by consensus - on the requirements that will be applicable to the product or service they are interested in. Depending on how such reference is made, either the use of the standards referred to is mandatory or their use by manufacturers/providers gives presumption of conformity to the legal requirements. This second way of using standards is followed in the 'New Approach Directives'.