The story so far: The Department of Consumer Affairs, Legal Metrology Division has notified a draft amendment to the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules 2011. As stated in the notification, the Department of Consumer Affairs Legal Metrology Division has observed that many manufacturers/packagers/importers do not clearly label necessary declarations or prime constituents on the front of packaged commodities, which are deemed essential to be disclosed in order to protect consumer interests.
It is mandatory under the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 to ensure a number of declarations, such as the name and address of the manufacturer/packer/importer, the country of origin, the common or generic name of the commodity, the net quantity, the month and year of manufacture, the Maximum Retail Price (MRP) and consumer care information. As a consumer-oriented policy, all prepackaged commodities should also be inspected.
As stated in Rule 2(h), the “principal display panel”, in relation to a package, means the total surface area of a package containing the information required in accordance with these rules, namely that all the information should be grouped together and given in one place — the pre-printed information could be grouped together and given in one place and the online information in another place.
Additionally, Rule 9(1)(a) provides that the declaration on the package must be legible and prominent. The consumers’ ‘right to be informed’ is violated when important declarations are not prominently displayed on the package.
If there is more than one major product, Rule 6(1)(b) states that “......the name or number of each product shall be mentioned on the package.” This sub-rule is however, not applicable to mechanical or electrical commodities.
As many blended food and cosmetic products are sold on the market, the key constituents need to be mentioned on the product packaging. It is common for consumers to assume that brands’ claims are accurate, but such claims are usually misleading. Additionally, the front side of the package must contain the percentage of the composition of the unique selling proposition (USP). As the name suggests, a USP also known as a unique selling point, is a marketing strategy designed to inform customers about the superiority of one’s own brand or product. Listing the USP of a product on the front of the package without disclosing its composition percentage violates consumer rights. Also, packages displaying key constituents must display a percentage of the content used to make the product. For example, if a brand sells aloe vera moisturiser or almond milk/biscuits, then the maximum percentage of the product should be aloe vera and almond, otherwise, the product name is misleading.
The Department of Consumer Affairs, Legal Metrology Division has suggested that at least two prime components should be declared on the package’s front side along with the brand name. Currently, manufacturers list the ingredients and nutritional information only on the back of the packaging.
The proposed Section 6(1)(ba) states that when a commodity contains more than one constituent, the front side of the package must include a declaration of two or more of the commodities’ prime constituents along with the brand name. This declaration must also include the percentage/quantity of the USPs of the product in the same font size as the declaration of the USPs. However, mechanical or electrical commodities are excluded from this sub-rule.
Moreover, public comments were solicited from all stakeholders, including industries, associations, consumers, and voluntary consumer organisations, in order to obtain their viewpoints.
When the new provision of Section 6(1) (ba) is added, consumers will not be misled by the fake claims of manufacturers relating to the content in blended foods and cosmetics.
G. S. Bajpai is the Vice-Chancellor Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab where Sangeeta Taak is Assistant Professor.