Labelling obligations relating to consumer products

law firm product safety

A breach of labelling obligations as they relate to product safety law can have far-reaching consequences

Before a consumer product is placed on the market, it must in accordance with Article 6 (1) 1., 2. and 3. of the German Product Safety Act (ProdSG) be labelled clearly with the name and contact address of the manufacturer or that of his authorised representative or importer. A breach of this obligation can have far-reaching consequences.

Background 

Before a consumer product is placed on the market, it must in accordance with the specifications of the ProdSG be labelled clearly with the name and contact address of the manufacturer and unambiguous markings allowing its identification. The aim and purpose of this obligation is the avoidance of anonymous products on the European internal market for the protection of the consumer. Consumer products in this sense are new, used or reprocessed products which are destined for consumers, and also products which are not actually destined for consumers, but which are likely, according to reasonable judgement, to be used by consumers. 

According to the intention of the German legislators, the labelling must be affixed on the product itself or, in exceptional cases only, on its packaging if it is not possible to affix it on the product. In this context the size of the product and the technical feasibility of such labelling play a decisive role. In certain circumstances, labelling naming the manufacturer and identifying the consumer product may be dispensed with altogether if its omission is justifiable. The legislators see these prerequisites as having been met if the information is either already known to the user – for example in the case of a special one-off product – or if the affixation would have been associated with disproportionate cost, for example if there is a flagrant disparity between the costs of affixation and the manufacturing or purchase price of the product. 

Breaches of the obligation to carry out correct and proper labelling can be punished by the market surveillance authorities with a fine of up to 10,000 EUR, and an order can also be issued to enact further consumer protection measures over and above that. A breach of the labelling obligations can also lead to consequences for the manufacturer under the law of competition, for example in the form of a warning. 

Outlook

Before placing their products on the market, manufacturers of products should check carefully whether or not their product qualifies as a consumer product within the meaning of the ProdSG. If it does, the correct and proper labelling of the product must be ensured in a further step. So appropriate production and product management costs should be included in the plan in good time.

[January 26th, 2018]