The purpose of the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 (PCR) is to regulate pre-packaged commodities. Under the PCR, pre-packaged commodities must comply with certain mandatory labelling requirements.
On 29 June 2017, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has approved amendments to the PCR (PCR Amendments). The PCR Amendments are aimed at enhancing consumer protection and will come in to force with effect from 1 January 2018. This time has been provided with a view to provide breathing period to the manufacturers/importers to exhaust their current inventory.
Some of the key changes made by the PCR Amendments are discussed below.
Mandatory declarations on good displayed on electronic platform
Goods displayed by the seller on the digital and electronic networks used for e-commerce transactions will need to contain mandatory declarations required under the PCR, such as, name and address of the manufacturer, packer and importer, name of the commodity, net content, maximum retail price (MRP), consumer care contact details, etc., except the month and year in which commodity is manufactured or packed.
In case of market place model for e-commerce (such as Amazon or Flipkart), the responsibility of the correctness of declarations lie with the manufacturer/ seller/ dealer/ importer, provided the function of the e-commerce entity is limited to providing access to a communication system over which information made available by the manufacturer/ seller/ dealer/ importer is transmitted or temporarily stored.
The online marketplaces will however need to observe due diligence while discharging its duty as an intermediary under the Information Technology Act, 2000.
Medical devices to mandatorily mention MRP amongst other declarations
The government has notified 22 medical devices, which qualify as “drugs” under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. So far, it was not mandatory for such medical devices to make mandatory declarations under the PCR. As per the PCR Amendments, medical devices which are declared as drugs, such as, stent, valve, orthopaedic implants, syringes, tools for operations, etc. need to mandatorily display MRP along with other declarations as required under the PCR.
One Product, one price – No dual MRP
The PCR Amendments also prohibit dual MRPs on products. Accordingly, no person shall declare different MRPs on identical pre-packaged commodities unless otherwise permitted. This move is intended to benefit consumers at large, considering that consumers have been facing the issue of different MRPs being charged for items sold at public places like cinema hall, airport, malls etc.
Declarations on food products
Labelling of food products is governed under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSSA) and the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011. The provisions regarding declarations on food products have been harmonized with labelling regulations under the FSSA.
The PCR Amendments also make it mandatory for all packaged commodities to have increased font size to enable users to read them easily before consumption. Bar Code/QR coding is allowed on a voluntary basis.
It is also mandatory to mention “best before” date on the label along with name of the country of origin or manufacture of assembly in case of imported products.
In view of the aforesaid PCR Amendments, it is important that companies dealing with goods finally meant for retail consumption in India review their labels and make necessary alterations (in any case before the due date of 1 January 2018) to ensure that they are not flouting the Legal Metrology laws in India. This is because, even a minor error, such as, failure to mention MRP (even in a one off package in a larger consignment) can lead to the issuance of a show cause notice by the enforcement authorities, which may inevitably lead to the commencement of prosecution against the company as well as it directors.