In Cambodia, the Ministry of Commerce takes the lead on many consumer protection matters, issuing and enforcing regulations that contribute greatly to a fairer and more transparent legal framework. The regulations protect consumers while simultaneously creating a more a level playing field for businesses.
On September 2, 2022, the ministry issued a new regulation concerning household chemical products. The regulation, named Prakas No. 192 on the Requirements for the Labeling of Household Chemical Products, is another big leap forward in light of the consumer protection framework that the Cambodian government has been rapidly updating in recent years.
Interesting issues in the regulation include household chemical product classification, labeling and language requirements, product storage requirements, recall requirements, and obligations for companies engaging in business activities related to household chemicals. In addition, the regulation reminds household chemicals businesses operating online of the need to obtain additional e-commerce licensing.
Cambodia’s consumer protection authority, the Consumer Protection, Competition and Fraud Repression Directorate-General—commonly known as the CCF—has already started to enforce the new regulation, as the three-month transition period under the regulation has now passed.
Classifying and Defining Household Chemicals
The regulation classifies household chemicals into three groups based on the product’s purpose—namely detergents, pesticides, and substances for home and garden protection.
There is also a separate list of household chemicals identified as “chemicals not allowed for use in food.” This list is just a reminder, as existing legislation already prohibits the use of the identified chemicals in food.
The regulation defines household chemicals as finished chemical products, or chemical additives to products, that can be harmful to health and that have one of the three purposes mentioned above. The regulation further states that the products are for use in “normal life,” such as in homes, workshops, or gardens, or for other public use.
The regulation lists many examples of household chemicals—including wood preservatives, furniture polish, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, oven cleaners, laundry detergents, toilet cleaners, dishwashing detergent, common cleaning agents, and many others—that are often part of daily life. We therefore believe that this regulation will have a substantial impact across a broad range of chemical products on the Cambodian market.
Labeling and Language Requirements
The regulation identifies the minimum labeling requirements and mandates the use of Khmer language for these, unless the regulation specifically indicates otherwise (for example, for active ingredients, which must be in English or French only). If the product does not have sufficient space for the labeling in Khmer, a description card, leaflet, sticker, or similar means to provide the information should be attached to the product.
Besides setting out various types of necessary informational and cautionary text, the regulation’s minimum labeling requirements also detail the use of pictograms complying with a subdecree from 2021 that applies the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, which is an internationally recognized standard for classifying and labeling chemicals.
Obligations of Businesses
All household chemical businesses in Cambodia (i.e., those that import, manufacture, store, distribute, or sell household chemicals) must take responsibility for ensuring the quality and safety of their products. The products must meet the regulation’s requirements, including on labeling and language.
Under the regulation, businesses must safely store their products, specifically storing them away from food. Businesses must also keep documents on the source of the products, and must provide these to the CCF or other appropriate authorities upon request.
Businesses must also recall products that are of poor quality, unsafe, or noncompliant with the labeling standards or other technical regulations.
The new regulation will contribute greatly to enhancing consumer protection, as it requires product labeling to provide the appropriate information to consumers in local language. Key labeling features with a positive impact on consumer protection include instructions on how to safely use a product, and instructions in case of emergencies.
Furthermore, the regulation clearly specifies that business owners must take responsibility for their products, ensuring they are safe for use. They are further obliged to recall any products deemed unsafe, which should generally lead to more reliable products on the market and removal of unsafe ones—either by businesses or the authorities (such as the CCF).
However, the regulation does not clarify product registration requirements, which would have been helpful to businesses operating in this sector. To date, it has been difficult to understand when and for exactly which products registrations are required—and even which regulator(s) are in charge in different scenarios. Unfortunately, the regulation does not make progress in clarifying these uncertainties.
Nevertheless, this regulation offers more guidance through its classification system, provides a clear definition of household chemicals (which had been ambiguous prior to the new regulation), and plainly lays out essential requirements for labeling content and language. Businesses can act decisively by updating their labels to comply with the new rules, and consumers can look forward to greater product safety and labeling clarity in the market for household chemicals in Cambodia.