ISO 2859 is a multipart series of attribute sampling plans maintained by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). In this series, the relevant standard for type A sampling targeted on finite lots is ISO 2859-2, which was issued in 1985. Some deficiencies of the standard have been observed during its 25 years of existence. The major problem is the standard's exclusive focus on the conforming–nonconforming unit quality paradigm, with an absence of any reference to nonconformities counts as a relevant quality indicator. The responsible subcommittee SC5 Acceptance sampling of the ISO technical committee TC 69 Application of statistical methods has therefore undertaken a revision of ISO 2859-2. The present study reviews the history, contents and weaknesses of ISO 2859-2 and describes the major components of the intended revision, in particular with respect to sampling for nonconformities. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.