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Labelling reforms to help consumers, business


A NEW study of product labelling laws is the first step in eliminating highly complex and prescriptive labelling regulation, the Minister for Small Business and Consumer Affairs, Geoff Prosser, said today (MON).

Launching two case studies of product labelling laws, Mr Prosser said the move was sparked by small business concerns over excessive red tape, complexity and cost and calls from consumer organisations to make product labels more useful for consumers.

"Labels should provide useful information to consumers and they don't always, do that at present," Mr Prosser said.

"Specifying the actual words which must appear on a label, the size of the lettering and even the positioning of certain key words or symbols on a label may satisfy the requirements of one or more regulators, but is of little help to consumers.

"The complex requirements also add to business costs and

confusion about their compliance responsibilities."

Mr Prosser said the Government aimed to introduce performance-based labelling, which would use performance standards to describe the outcomes to be achieved by a product label instead of specifying in detail the actual content of the label.

"This would give manufacturers the chance to design labels which meet the standards, but also contain information they know their customers need and understand. This approach would also offer manufacturers the chance to work out cost-effective means of meeting the standard and could reduce regulatory confusion as well as saving time and money."

The Federal Bureau of Consumer Affairs is conducting studies into over-the-counter medicines - - in particular non-prescription painkillers - and home garden chemicals.

"The first meeting of the reference groups heard that consumers experience difficulty with the terminology used on labels, and that there was a need to address the lack of information available to consumers and small manufacturers on the regulation process.

"The reference group also discussed the need for communication expertise to be represented on regulatory bodies to ensure that labels convey the most useful information to consumers, and the need to harmonise Commonwealth, State, Territory and international laws.

"I am now calling for views on this important matter from business and consumers, who are the people who will reap the benefits from this project."

Interested parties are asked to post their comments to Lea Grant, Federal Bureau of Consumer Affairs, Department of Industry, Science and Tourism, GPO Box 9839, Canberra ACT 2601

(fax 06 273 1992 or e-mail consumer affair @

Further information:

Simon Troeth - Minister's office 06 277 7790/(0419) 412 715