To cope with the rapid changes in business and the prosperous development of information technology in recent years, the Amendments to the Commodity Labeling Act cleared through three readings at the Legislative Yuan on May 3, 2022 and were promulgated by the President on May 18. These amendments are highlighted below:
1. Specific commodities as announced are exempted from labeling pursuant to the Commodity Labeling Act (Article 4):
At present, except for special commodities such as foods, drugs, and cosmetics, which are separately regulated by special laws, other general commodities such as clothes, shoes and socks, 3C, toys, etc., should be labeled in accordance with the provisions of the Commodity Labeling Act. In view of the characteristics and practices of certain commodities (such as gold ornaments, books, etc.), which can hardly be labeled strictly in accordance with the Commodity Labeling Act, the new law authorizes the Ministry of Economic Affairs (hereinafter, the “MOEA”), the central competent authority, to consider the rights of consumers, trading habits, and the characteristics of commodities, and to announce that specific commodities can be exempted from labeling in accordance with the Commodity Labeling Act and be labeled, instead, based on the trading habits or commercial practices of the specific commodities.
2. The labeling obligors are specified (Article 5):
In addition to the “manufacturers” of domestic products and the “importers” of imported products, who are commodity labeling obligors, the new law also stipulates that the operators commissioning the manufacture and engaging in bulk repackaging for sale are also labeling obligors.
3. Adjustment of the commodity labeling methods
(1) Announced commodities may be electronically labeled (Article 10).
Current commodity labels, in principle, shall be labeled on the product itself, internal and external package, or in the instruction manual. To accommodate technological development, the new law authorizes the central competent authority to announce the adoption of electronic labeling methods, such as two-dimensional bar codes or QR codes, for specific categories of commodity.
(2) Manufacturing dates may be labeled by the “Year, Month” or “Year, Week” (Article 6).
For the current labeling method of “manufacturing dates,” the MOEA has explained through a circular that if the commodity has “no shelf life,” it is permitted to label the “Year, Month” and presume that the “manufacturing date” is the first day of the month and year. For a commodity that has a “shelf life,” the “Year, Month, Date” should be specified. The new law considered international labeling practices for reference and specifically requires that the manufacturing date may be labeled by the “Year, Month ” or the “Year, Week,” and that if the “Year, Week” labeling is adopted, a text should be included to inform consumers.
(3) Certain items may be labeled by international words or symbols, or only in foreign languages (Article 11).
For the commodity labeling language, the current law requires that labeling should be basically conducted in Chinese. The new law eases the requirement by stipulating that except for the commodity name and the name, address, and service numbers of the domestic supplier, international words or symbols may be used for the labeling of items required to be labeled pursuant to law. For example, “centimeter” may be labeled as “cm” or the mathematic symbol “±” may be used to label the tolerance of quantity. In addition, the MOEA, the central competent authority, may also announce that specific labeling items may be labeled in English or other foreign languages only.
4. The subsequent method for handling change of manufacturer information of products that have been put on the market is additionally stipulated (Article 6, Paragraph 3).
If the name, address, or telephone number of the manufacturer is changed after the commodity is put on the market, enforcement would be too costly and difficult if the manufacturer is required to recall and correct all the commodities. Therefore, the new law additionally provides that if the relevant information of domestic manufacturers has changed after the labeling, it is not required to change the labeling of the goods that have been circulated into the market, and the changes will be made public in a way that consumers can know at any time, such as announcement on the company’s official website or news media, etc.
5. Add inspection sites other than the selling sites, and include online shopping platforms in the regulation (Article 14 and Article 15).
To strengthen enforcement, the new law additionally provides that local authorities may visit manufacturers, entities commissioning the manufacture, importers, repackaging operators, or other commodity manufacturing, storage, or repackaging premises for inspection. The new law also includes online shopping platform operators in the regulation and additionally provides that when goods are sold on the Internet, platform operators have the obligation to provide information about the publisher, supplier, or seller of the goods, and violators may be fined NT$20,000 to NT$200,000 for each instance.
6. The penalty mechanism is revised where a penalty may be imposed directly without notification for rectification if the violation of the law is significant or poses an immediate danger to health (Articles 16 to 18).
To deal with cases that are detected and involve non-compliance with the requirements of the Commodity Labeling Act, the local authority is required under the current law to first notify the manufacturer to rectify within a stated period and may impose a fine only when rectification is not made within the period. As a result, some operators do not proactively comply with laws and regulations voluntarily until their violations are detected. The new law stipulates that if the violation of the Commodity Labeling Act is significant or if the goods pose an immediate danger to human bodies or health, the local authority may impose a penalty directly and demand rectification within a stated period.
The newly amended Commodity Labeling Act will come into effect on May 18, 2023, and the MOEA is expected to successively prescribe related sublaws. Operators are advised to pay attention to relevant requirements.