The UK is no longer part of the EU
The process of the United Kingdom (UK) leaving the European Union (EU) is now complete. The UK formally left the EU on 31 January 2020 with a Withdrawal Agreement. A year-long transition period followed the formal exit date, giving time for the UK and EU to negotiate on trade agreements and prepare for future border controls and customs arrangements.
For the UK, this time was also crucial to prepare for the implementation of the new UK legislation.
The UK/EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (Free Trade Agreement) was agreed at the very end of the transition period on the 24 December 2020, and the UK formally left the EU Single Market a few days later on the 31 December 2020.
The legal framework for cosmetic products on the UK market
On 1 January 2021, new UK-specific legislation entered into force. The Withdrawal Agreement established that the legislation would be based on retained EU law. In practice, this meant transposing current EU Regulations into UK law and making changes, where needed, to refer to UK specific roles and processes. For cosmetics, the UK legal text is named ‘Schedule 34 of the Product Safety and Metrology Statutory Instrument’, or for simplicity, the UK Cosmetics Regulation (UKCR). This also means that the legislation in the UK is not actually new; the same principles and requirements are preserved from the EU Cosmetics Regulation (the Cosmetic Products Regulation 1223/2009).
Although based on the same principles, the UK and EU laws covering cosmetics are separate and have their own individual notification portals and RP labelling requirements.
However, since these are now separate frameworks, all cosmetic products placed on the UK market must comply with the UKCR. Notably, there is a requirement to have a Responsible Person (RP) based in the UK; and the RP’s name and address will need to appear on the label of products placed on the market in Great Britain. These products will also need to be notified, which must be done through the ‘Submit a Cosmetic Product Notification’ (SCPN) portal, in place since the 1 January 2021.
Companies have been given time to adapt to the new requirements. If UK products were notified to the EU Cosmetic Product Notification Portal (CPNP) before 1 January 2021, there is a 90-day period from 1 January 2021 to submit a shorter notification to the SCPN. If the EU RP is listed on the label but not the UK RP, companies need to update the label within two years from 1 January 2021. These extensions only apply in the UK and there are no transition periods for products on the EU market.
Also, for products placed on the market before the 1 January 2021, both the UK and EU have agreed that there is no ‘sell-through’ period to reach the end consumer, as long as they remain at the necessary level of safety and efficacy required under the law.
Placing a product on the market refers to each individual pack leaving the stores of the manufacturer; if a brand or a new product range was launched prior to 1 January 2021, this doesn’t mean that every future pack within that brand or range is considered placed on the market.
The Northern Ireland Protocol
The Withdrawal Agreement contained the Northern Ireland Protocol, which clarified how the introduction of a border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain would affect trade in goods and goods on the market. For cosmetic products, the NI Protocol means that EU legislation will continue to apply in Northern Ireland. Therefore, products placed in Northern Ireland will need to have an EU RP, which will have to appear on the product label and the products must be notified to the EU CPNP.
However, consideration has been given to those companies based in Northern Ireland who aim to supply products to the whole of the UK. In this case, the company can place products on both the UK and EU markets as long as they follow both sets of legislations.
Requirements for product claims in the UK
The UKCR, which is applicable in GB, is based on the same principles as the EU Cosmetics Regulation. This includes ensuring that all claims made about the product can be fully supported. In fact, the UKCR references the EU Regulation No 655/2013, which established the ‘Common Criteria’ for the justification of claims used in relation to cosmetic products. Therefore, all cosmetic claims made in the UK still need to take into consideration the principles of legal compliance, truthfulness, evidential support, honesty, fairness and informed decision-making. Should any of these principles be breached, the claim should not be made.
A responsible industry
The cosmetics industry is innovative and agile, quickly responding to consumer demands and new trends. Claims are an important way for brands to highlight new benefits and technologies, setting their products apart from the rest. In addition to ensuring compliance with Article 20 of the UKCR and the Common Criteria Regulation, the cosmetics industry also has a responsibility to ensure that the consumer clearly understands what is meant by the claim, and that they understand not only what the claim is saying, but also how it is supported. To do this, it is important for brand owners to be transparent on their messages and the meaning of the claim, especially if the claim could have different meanings based on information that the consumer may find on social media.
CTPA has worked with industry in the development of guidance and support, including training events, to help companies make claims that will give consumers confidence in the industry.
Importantly, retaining consumer trust in cosmetic products and their claims is fundamental. Claims that question the safety of cosmetic ingredients and/or the efficacy of other products in the market do not enhance the reputation of the whole industry. These claims can lead consumers to look for advice and information about cosmetics from inaccurate sources. CTPA strongly advocates for companies to highlight the benefits and positive characteristics of their products helping consumers to choose based on their own lifestyle and personal preference and not based on safety. All cosmetic products, and their ingredients, made available to consumers anywhere in the world are subject to strict safety requirements, and the UK is no exception.
Claiming that a product is ‘free from’ certain ingredients which are legally allowed and proven to be safe can damage the reputation of our industry as a safe, well-regulated industry and make consumers unnecessarily fearful.