The European Organisation for Packaging and the Environment (EUROPEN) has attacked recent changes to French law that could affect the packaging of luxury goods.
Under the new regulations, packaging must be as limited as possible while respecting the needs of product safety, hygiene and logistics. The consumer acceptance part of the law, which was accepted by EU member states in 1994, has been removed.
Under EU law the elaborate packaging often associated with the luxury market is accepted because it forms part of the character of the product; getting rid of it would be unacceptable to the consumer.
The new French law cuts out the consumer acceptance part, technically making anything that is not needed to protect the product on the shelf and during its transportation, illegal.
Aside from having significant consequences for luxury manufacturers, according to Europen the French authorities do not have the right to make this change.
“The consumer acceptance part is included in the harmonised European Directive. France is not technically allowed to just scrap it,” Europen’s EU affairs manager Fiona Durie told CosmeticsDesign.
“As they signed up to the law in 1994, France has to go to the European Commission if they want to make any changes,” she added.
For this reason, Europen is calling on the Commission to initiate infringement proceedings against France.
Commenting on the move, Europen managing director Julian Carroll said: “We have asked the Commission to act promptly in this case to prevent any possible disruption to the internal market for packaging and packaged goods.”
Part of wider environment law
The changes to the French regulation are part of the wider law of the Grenelle which was adopted last month by the French National Assembly and the Senate.
The Grenelle law covers a very large range of environmental issues, not simply relating to packaging, explained Durie. Dropping the consumer acceptance clause reflects an attempt to reduce the environmental impact of packaged goods on the environment.
According to Durie, a number of international governments have voiced concerns that the consumer acceptance element acts as a ‘get out clause’ to allow packaging manufacturers to avoid minimising packaging.
“It is true that it is a broad concept and difficult to pin down,” she said, adding that there are already requirements in place for recovery and recycling targets to tackle the environmental problem.