Voluntary Product Standards (VPS) published by the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) are developed under procedures published by the Department in Part 10, Title 15, of the Code of Federal Regulations. The purpose of these standards is to establish nationally recognized requirements for products and to provide all concerned interests with a basis for common understanding of the characteristics of a product. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) administers the VPS Program on a fee-for-service basis.
NIST acts as an unbiased coordinator in the development of these standards. NIST provides editorial assistance in their preparation, supplies assistance and review as is required to assure their technical soundness, and seeks satisfactory adjustment of valid points of disagreement. NIST also determines compliance with the criteria of the Department's procedures, provides secretarial functions for VPS Committees appointed under DOC procedures, and publishes the standards as public documents.
Producers, distributors, users, consumers, and other interested groups contribute to the establishment of Voluntary Product Standards by initiating and participating in their development, providing technical or other comments as appropriate, promoting the use of and support for the standards, and assisting in keeping the standards current with respect to advancing technology and marketing practices.
The use of DOC Voluntary Product Standards is voluntary. NIST has no regulatory power in the enforcement of their provisions; however, since the standards represents a consensus of all interested groups, their provisions are likely to become established as trade customs. In addition, when a Voluntary Product Standard is made a part of a legal document, such as a sales contract or code, compliance with the standard is enforceable.
The benefits derived from Voluntary Product Standards are in direct proportion to their general recognition and actual use. Producers and distributors whose products meet the requirements of a Voluntary Product Standard may refer to the standard in advertising and on labels to promote greater public understanding for confidence in their products. At times, purchasers may order products conforming to the requirements of a Voluntary Product Standard.
Additional background on this program can be found on the Brief History of DOC voluntary standards page.