Hamlins’ IP partner Matthew Pryke explains how beauty brands can avoid the pitfalls of labelling

It may seem arbitrary to the consumer, but labelling can be a regulatory minefield for brands, as Hamlins LLP Intellectual Property Partner Matthew Pryke explains.

How would you describe today’s labelling landscape?

The landscape for cosmetic labelling is complex and largely misunderstood by a significant portion of brand owners and retail suppliers. This complexity arises from the cosmetic labelling process having obligations set at various layers of the supply chain and, to ensure legislative compliance, consequently it is often extremely time-consuming and expensive.

What are the biggest pitfalls?

In my experience, the most common pitfalls relate to products used globally which meet country-specific requirements in one jurisdiction but not in another. For example, EU and UK requirements are often not understood to be sometimes more onerous than similar legislation encountered within the US. Another common pitfall is a failure to understand the extent of the compliance requirements and the manner in which this could ultimately expose the business to prosecution from authorities.

How can companies stay on top of cosmetics regulations?

The most crucial resource a cosmetic company must put in place is a proactive compliance and reporting procedure. Often this is only possible once an internal audit is undertaken both to understand the extent of the requirements and then to determine the approach to address them while maintaining commercial ‘common sense’.

Are there recent cosmetics regulatory changes to note?

Over the last few years there have been regulations introduced within the EU that have significantly changed the compliance environment for cosmetics businesses. The landscape is now complex with numerous pieces of legislation potentially impacting cosmetics products in addition to the Cosmetics Regulations 2009, including the Food Information Regulations 2014; the Nutritional and Health Claims Regulations 2007; recent updates and guidance from the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP); and Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) regarding the marketing of cosmetics and cosmetic interventions.

What are the risks of noncompliance?

The risks are significant. A business may be subject to a claim for compensation or damage suffered by a consumer. Enforcement action can be taken, in the UK, by Trading Standards and complaints can be made to the ASA for promotional or advertising materials that do not comply with current legislation. The last and possibly most significant issue is potential reputational damage and negative PR. This is particularly predominant in the cosmetics space, where social media has become an intrinsic element of the launch and growth of successful cosmetic brands.

Top tips for compliance

Matthew Pryke gives his advice to ensure your cosmetic company labels its products in the right way…

  • Know where your business operates within the industry and understand the legal responsibilities associated with terminology such as ‘Responsible Person’, ‘Distributor’, ‘Brand’ and ‘Product’.
  • Consider the geographical reach of a product before deciding labelling requirements. It is often more prudent to use information which will ensure a global approach to compliance.
  • The most cost-efficient and appropriate approach is a proactive one that avoids nasty or costly ‘surprises’.
  • Take responsibility. Legislation does not just place obligations on manufacturers. Rather, the whole supply chain has responsibilities to the consumer which cannot be sidestepped.

This article was first published in the 16 May issue of Cosmetics Business News, a Cosmetics Business magazine published by HPCi Media.