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September 30, 2022

Cambodia Clarifies Product Labeling Rules and Announces Increased Enforcement

In keeping with the government’s strong focus on consumer protection in recent years, Cambodia’s consumer protection authority issued a notice on consumer product labeling on September 23, 2022. The notice from the General Department of Consumer Protection, Competition, and Fraud Repression (CCF) provides clarifications on labeling rules for general consumer products, goods, and services.

The most significant clarification is that both locally produced and imported products, goods, and services must have a Khmer-language label or attach a product description in Khmer language. Imports may use a sticker with Khmer language as long as the minimum labeling requirements are met.

The notice announces a transition period for companies to amend their labeling, allowing them to make changes to the labeling until December 31, 2022. According to the notice, the CCF will investigate and take enforcement measures starting January 1, 2023. This likely signals a major increase in enforcement efforts throughout 2023.

Labeling Rules

The CCF notice gives instructions on product labeling rules. In Cambodia, “product” refers to general products, goods, and services on the Cambodian market. Product-specific labeling regulations (e.g., for food products) overrule the requirements for these general products.

The CCF notice provides the following instructions:

  • All products on the market must have a label, or attach a product description, using Khmer language.
  • Imported products that do not have a Khmer-language label printed on the packaging should provide a product description in Khmer. Companies can attach the necessary information or apply a sticker to the product.
  • Trademarks on the products may use a foreign language but must be in line with the relevant local trademark registration.
  • Foreign-language or different labeling is only permitted if authorized by the regulator, or by regulations that apply to a specific type of product.
  • The label or product description must use an appropriate font size, in relation to the packaging of the product. The label or product description with the minimum information must be clearly visible and legible to the consumer.
  • The label or product description must comply with the applicable product standards or requirements under applicable technical regulations. This concerns both Cambodian standards and technical regulations and those applicable internationally.
  • The label or product description must provide the true nature of the product, and may not be misleading or confusing to consumers.
  • The following minimum information must be provided:
    • Usage instructions;
    • Components/ingredients;
    • Best-before date or expiry date;
    • Product lot number;
    • Address of the manufacturer or importer;
    • Functions of the product, and how to use safely in accordance with the functions;
    • Harmful effects; and
    • How to preserve or store the product.

The CCF notice clarifies that products with a surface of 20 square centimeters or less should have a product description with the above mentioned items attached to the product. This can be done via a product tag or attached leaflet, for example.

The CCF notice does not address using a QR code, although other implementing regulations do allow this. It would be helpful if the CCF would further address the recent notice’s relation to the implementing regulations under the Law on Consumer Protection, as the regulations provide much greater detail than this notice.

While a regulation has legal effect, the notice is not a legal instrument in itself. However, the CCF notice is likely issued to set a minimum baseline. Many products currently on the market will need to amend their labeling according to the notice—and include even further amendments in order to follow the regulations.

In the past, labeling regulations were not widely enforced. Therefore, this notice should be viewed as the first step toward full compliance and enforcement.

In addition, some further clarifications may still be necessary, such as in relation to certain consumer products that do not have a best-before or expiry date, or do not have any harmful effects. Guidance would also be welcome on whether product labels may exclude clearly irrelevant items from the minimum information list, as long as excluding them is not detrimental to the rights of consumers.

For more information on legal requirements in relation to consumer products in Cambodia, please contact Tilleke & Gibbins’ Phnom Penh office at [email protected] or +855 23 964 210.

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