The European leather sector deals quite often with problems related to products that are fraudulently labelled as leather or are counterfeit. Some products may also be labelled using the term ‘leather’ inappropriately. Misleading and fraudulent labelling are not only detrimental to businesses but also to consumers who are not correctly informed. The European Commission is addressing this particular challenge by assessing different policy options, including the possibility of introducing an authenticity leather labelling system at the EU level.
This is why a public consultation addressed to all interested has been launched to gather views on the extent of the problem of labelling of leather products and the relevance and impacts of proposed options. The consultation covers all leather products (leather being a material of animal origin) and products which have the aspect of leather but are made of other materials. Since the labelling of leather shoes is already regulated by Directive 94/11/EC (Footwear Directive), shoes are excluded from the scope of the consultation.
Some Member States, notably Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Lithuania and Spain, have introduced labelling systems for leather and leather products, however, with divergent scope and rules. But there is no labelling system regarding leather products in the majority of Member States.
In addition to mandatory national systems, there is also a range of voluntary standards and labelling systems. In Italy and UK, the leather industry holds a collective trademark, and the industry in Germany developed a similar standard.
The products that could be impacted by misleading and fraudulent labelling carry an estimated market value of €1.1bn–1.4bn and the estimated annual cost of litigation is between €1.6m and 4.1m. In addition, a large proportion of consumers (67%) declare themselves often or sometimes unsure whether a product is made of genuine leather or not. The Commission is seeking to validate these quantifications.
The policy objectives
The general policy objectives are:
- Enhance the competitiveness of the European leather industry and value chain by ensuring a level playing field;
- Improve the functioning of the internal market for leather products in the EU by avoiding the proliferation of national initiatives that may fragment the internal market;
- Safeguard the information interests of consumers through ensuring adequate information.
The specific objectives are:
- Ensure that the products circulating in the EU market are properly labelled and the denomination ‘leather’ used only on products which are of animal origin;
- Ensure the application of harmonised requirements through the whole EU;
- Ensure that consumers are properly informed when purchasing products made of leather or made of other materials – Raise consumer's awareness on leather products.
Citizens and consumer organizations, market surveillance bodies, other government institutions, standardisation organisations, test laboratories, intergovernmental organisations, interest groups (industry, retailers, consumers, environmentalists), trade unions, individual manufacturers, individual retailers, research institutes and consultancies
The consultation is now closed. Preliminary results are available on this page.