Food Law News - EU - 2004

Commission Press Release (IP/04/1321), 28 October 2004

WEIGHTS - Commission proposes deregulation of pack sizes

[Note: For a copy of the proposal, go to COM (2004) 0708 ]

The European Commission has just adopted a proposal to deregulate pack sizes for a whole range of consumer products (such as detergents, pet food, ice cream, frozen food, low alcoholic drinks, soft drinks, cleaning products, paints, shampoo, toothpaste...etc). The existing rules date from the 1970s, when member States' rules on pack sizes constituted barriers to trade, and Community rules were necessary to access markets. Except for a few sectors, the Commission proposes to abolish Community and national regulation of size in the light of well established case law of the European Court of Justice. It will make it easier to cater for ever more divergent consumer needs.

Enterprise Commissioner Olli Rehn said: "this proposal reflects the consensus arrived at after a wide consultation with national authorities, industry, users, consumers and other interested parties, based on an extended impact assessment. While there is no doubt deregulation will greatly facilitate the introduction of updated and new products, stakeholders nevertheless remain free to use European standardisation, if they feel this can be helpful."

Commissioner Ján Figel said: "the proposal on deregulation of pack sizes goes in the direction of contributing to a competitive environment through standardisation and better regulation in the meaning of less regulation, less red tape, smarter and simplified regulation, accompanied by credible, deep impact assessment. This is good for both big companies and for SMEs."

The proposal follows on from the recommendation of the panel on Simplification of Legislation on the Internal Market (SLIM) to make sizes mandatory only where necessary.

The Commission has taken into account the fact that Community consumer protection legislation is much more comprehensive than it was at the time of introduction of the sizes legislation. Notably the introduction of unit pricing allows consumers to compare the price per liter/kilogram of products offered in different sizes(Directive 98/6/EC on consumer protection in the indication of the prices of products offered to consumers). Further, fixed sizes were not found to contribute to the environmental objectives of the Community.

In four sectors (wine, spirits, soluble coffee and white sugar) the impact assessment found cost elements that justify maintaining those sizes that are most sold to consumers. The proposal is to let the exemption last for 20 years, the average lifetime of packaging machinery, after which these sectors should also be subject to full competition.

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