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January 27, 2023

Cambodia Steps Up Enforcement of Khmer Language Requirement for Advertising and Product Labeling

The opening weeks of 2023 have already seen a sharp increase in enforcement against violations of product labeling and advertising rules in Cambodia, in line with a notice issued by the country’s Directorate-General for Consumer Protection, Competition, and Fraud Repression (CCF) last year.

Since the Law on Consumer Protection was adopted in 2019, a major legislative push has been seen, with general rules coming out focusing on providing consumers with sufficient information on products and services, for example via product labeling or advertising rules. Then, more detailed regulations were adopted for specific product categories, for example for food products and cosmetics. Khmer language requirements have been a key feature of the recently adopted rules on advertising and labeling.

Despite the Khmer language mandates in consumer protection laws and regulations, enforcement and compliance was low. Most products on the market—especially imports—did not comply with the language requirement.

In line with the revamped regulatory framework, the CCF has increased its enforcement, enabled by recent substantial budget increases. They have adopted clear implementing regulations for their officers to enforce in a practical yet effective manner, and they have been issuing notices reminding companies to comply with the new rules.

A September 2022 notice announced that increased CCF enforcement of product labeling rules would start on January 1, 2023. As noted above, this has already proven to be true, and enforcement is now proceeding in earnest. Companies should take heed of this notice and ensure compliance with the Khmer language requirements (detailed below), as the CCF has shown that it readily acts against violators, from small retailers to large conglomerates.

Khmer Language Requirement

A sub-decree issued November 4, 2022 requires all commercial advertising of products and services—by any channel—to use Khmer as the primary language. If foreign-language text is used in advertisements, it must comply with the sub-decree’s rules on placement and font size to ensure the Khmer text retains its prominence.

An interesting clarification of the rules has been that the packaging of products can be a place for advertisement. Therefore, any “advertising text” on a product’s packaging has to comply with the Khmer language requirement as well.

In addition, all types of consumer products generally need to have Khmer language on the labeling. A printed label with the Khmer, or a sticker added onto an already printed label, is often permissible. If the label does not have sufficient space to print or to allow use of a sticker, a description with the information in Khmer can be attached to the product.

In effect, the new advertising rules and the labeling rules mean that almost all text on product packaging now requires translation into Khmer language. Those offering products in Cambodia should take steps to ensure full compliance for their products, including any labeling or advertising, in order to avoid potential penalties and business interruptions due to enforcement efforts.

For more information on complying with Cambodia’s advertising and labeling requirements, please contact David Mol and [email protected].

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