Product Labels In Relation To Imported And Exported Goods

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The Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act of 1905 is over 100 years old but is still used to determine the legality of all imported products that come into Australia. This Act, despite containing 17 parts, simply requires that all goods coming into Australia are labelled correctly.

In fact, it is imperative that the trade description applied to your goods via your product label or any other covering such as a bottle, box, glass, vessel, capsule, case, frame or wrapper of any sort is accurate. Your trade description would include the following:

  1. Quantity of your goods
  2. Quality, class and purity of your goods
  3. Size or weight of your products
  4. Nature of your goods
  5. Country where the goods were made
  6. Name of the manufacturer or producer
  7. How the goods were manufactured, produced or packed
  8. The ingredients or materials consisting in the goods
  9. The existence of any patent or copyright over the goods.

Of course, your product labels should be kept simple and be graphically appealing to the consumer at the same time. There is a conflict when it comes to designing product labels in terms of the need to sell versus the need to be compliant. In this conflict, it is always best to err on the side of compliance.

If your packaging is non-compliant then you simply will not have a product to sell. Much of the information required by Australian law in relation to providing a trade description on your products that is accurate and cannot be interpreted as being misleading is something that you would want to be doing anyway.

Rather than fear the law, it is best to work within its guidelines as these laws will provide valuable information to your consumer and at the same time assist you in selling your products in Australian markets.

A false trade description not only applies to information that is false but it also applies to information that is omitted. Also, the same laws apply to exporters. If you are involved in importing and exporting, then it is worthwhile familiarising yourself with the Australian government requirements of the trade description of your goods. Here is the relevant link for the accurate definition of a trade description and its components.

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/cda1905270/s3.html#trade_description

The above information is just a very brief summary of your requirements as an importer or exporter of goods coming into and going out of Australia. If you are a major importer or exporter, then you should definitely seek legal advice in terms of your product labels on your goods and the packaging of these goods. However, my reading of the law is that compliance is really not that difficult as the government’s laws on trade descriptions seem very logical to me.

Importing and exporting is vital for our global economy and I feel confident that Australia has laws that are strict enough to protect Australian consumers and also international consumers of our products. In fact, it is the strictness of our laws that makes Australia a comfortable place to live for consumers. Similarly, Australian exporters enjoy a strong international reputation that is partly due to the enforcement of the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act of 1905.

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