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EU label rules could put brakes on exports

Regulation on label languages could leave stock in ‘limbo’ if it doesn’t conform, say UK wholesalers

UK wholesalers that export into Europe face months of having their product rejected by customers as a new European regulation comes into force.

The rule stipulates that labels detailing garment composition should be written in every language of the member state it could be sold into – up to 23 languages. It also specifies that this information should be visible to customers at point of sale.

The legislation was passed last year, and formally comes into being in 2014 – but is already affecting product being delivered for autumn 12, as the policy was effectively soft launched in May.

One wholesaler told Drapers he had been warned by customers they may be unable to accept deliveries that do not comply.

“The problem is the time delay – all of our items, as with most other brands, are produced overseas, so these orders were made some time ago,” he said. “We have goods ready to be shipped but I have European customers saying unless it conforms they don’t want to take it as it won’t be us in hot water – it’ll be them.”

Although the wholesaler recognised that in the future compliance would be less of a problem, he said the current situation placed him and other exporters in “limbo”.

“There are many brands delivering now for autumn that may not comply with the directive, and it seems many don’t even know about it,” he added.

East Midlands MEP Roger Helmer is planning to raise the plight of manufacturers in the European Parliament, to ask if there is any flexibility around the policy.

UKIP representative Helmer also believes the industry is at risk of being caught unaware of what he described as “a logistical nightmare”.

“Companies are being told no more deliveries will be accepted from today until they conform – the first thing these businesses knew about it was when customers in Germany and Italy said they couldn’t take the consignment,” he said.

“There are garments in the warehouse waiting to be exported, and some that are already on the water, which will not meet these regulations. That means these businesses will be stuck with a load of stock that it’s a logistical nightmare to do anything with.”

But UK Fashion & Textile Association chief executive John Miln – who has flagged the matter with members previously – said there was “considerable time for people to understand” the changes, and noted that it was possible that not all member states would insist on following the rule.

“We’ve all got to work at this over the next 12 months, to understand it better and deliver some form of good advice to suppliers about how to deal with individual markets in the EU,” he said.

One solution could be to put a country-specific sticker over the swing ticket, Miln added. 

Readers' comments (5)

  • What EU rubbish! Brands should simply say 'we're not doing it' and then see what happens.

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  • It's a shame that during these difficult economic times such laws are making trading even more difficult.

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  • This is another layer of needless hoops, and expense for brands to jump through in difficult times. I am guessing it wasn't EU customers that asked for this, but bureaucrats who thought we all might like it.

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  • Have you seen the length of C&A care labels?!
    Last time I looked that was 'only' for about 9 countries!!!
    23 languages will be like having a tape measure sewn in the side seam wtf lol

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  • www.Anthony&

    Stupid, stupid, stupid - extra cost, extra hassle for no advantage. Should just have it in English the universal language! Next thing they will want a booklet with each item to tell you how to put it on and take it off!

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