The second feature common to most standards-developing organizations is administrative due process. These groups have formal policies governing such facets of standards development as technical committee membership; setting the scope of proposed standards; drafting and revising standards; voting within committees; review of draft standards by higher authority within the SDO; and balloting and approval by the membership at large.34 Due process in SDOs bears many resemblances to public administrative procedures law. Laws governing public agency decisionmaking processes have such aims as representation of multiple interests; objectivity and fairness of procedures; public access to information about agency actions; and accountability of the agency through formal appeals. Analogous features—public notice and comment, appeals, multiple interest group representation, and democratic procedures—are all to be found in the policies of most formal standards-developing organizations as well.35 These procedures increase the likelihood that a technical committee will reach a broad-based consensus, enhancing the value of the resulting standard.
Formal procedures, such as open participation and review, also serve as protection against allegations of collusive behavior for participants from competing firms. Consensus standards development is, in fact, well tolerated by U.S. antitrust law and precedent.36 There have been few successful antitrust lawsuits related to U.S. voluntary product standards. In each case where the suit was successful, it was the subsequent interpretation of the standard by some other party, such as a certifier, that was deemed anticompetitive. One example is American Society of Mechanical Engineers v. Hydrolevel Corporation, a 1982 case in which a standards developer, ASME, was defeated in an antitrust suit. It was the actions of a committee interpreting product compliance with the ASME Boiler Code that was found to be anticompetitive—not the code itself or the process by which it was written.37
The principles underlying consensus standards development evolved over a period of many years, within many different SDOs. Each organization applies the principles in different ways, with procedures and objectives specific to the needs of its industry sector or professional competence. Authority in the U.S. standards-developing system, consequently, is highly decentralized and linked to specific industry sectors. Adherence to the basic principles, however, is actively promoted through the central, coordinating function of the American National Standards Institute. ANSI is not a standards developer but, rather, a nonprofit organization that coordinates and supports the U.S. consensus standards development system. U.S. standards developers desiring ANSI accreditation of their procedures and standards must follow ANSI guidelines for consensus, open participation, and due process. Through accreditation, ANSI seeks to promote and perpetuate core principles of the U.S. voluntary standards system.38 Other ANSI functions in the U.S. system are discussed later in this chapter.