Garment Labelling 101

Another fantastic Melbourne Fashion Week came to a close the other week, and here at Marquette IP, we’ve had the business of fashion on our minds. One of the things we often get asked about by fashion brands is what product labelling laws apply to the industry.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of considerations that should be borne in mind when settling on product labels, in order to ensure you are compliant with the relevant laws:

Product Care Instructions
Always provide product care instructions on your labels that are appropriately tailored to each individual garment. This allows consumers to predict the effort and cost of care, and how to get the most out of your products. We recommend you steer clear of ambiguous or inadequate instructions such as “do not tumble dry”. To be as clear as possible, you should use well-known standard symbols such as those provided by the Drycleaning Institute of Australia.

It is also important to ensure that your instructions are not overly cautious or impose unnecessarily high standards. Supplying products that do not comply with the mandatory standards of care labelling is an offence under Australian Consumer Law (ACL), which will be enforced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). Hefty fines will apply to non-compliant businesses.

Country of Origin Claims
Be very careful when wording your country of origin claims. Take note of the following keywords and surrounding rules of application:

  • “Made in” should be used where the product was created or substantially transformed in a particular place
  • “Product of” should be used where each significant component of the good originates and where virtually all the production or manufacture processes happen
  • “Grown in” should be used where each significant component of the good was grown and where virtually all the production or manufacture processes happen

Deciding which terms to use involves understanding your supply chain intimately, but this is crucial, as the ACCC will monitor your compliance with these guidelines very strictly. Again, penalties can apply if you contravene these rules.

Environmental & Organic Claims
You may only claim your products are natural or organic if you are absolutely certain you will be able substantiate those claims with clear evidence. Certification may even be obtained from a reputable certifying body. You should also only make these claims when your entire product has been certified, not just your raw materials or parts of the product. Your use of any certification logos must also be in line with the specific certification body’s requirements. Unsubstantiated claims can amount to misleading and deceptive conduct under the ACL.

Import or Origin Country
You will need to identify where your products are manufactured overseas and imported into Australia. Australian Customs and Border Protection Services require a true description of the goods, including the name of the country of manufacture and fibre content.

Positioning and Appearance of your Labels
The final key consideration is the placement of your product labels. They must be in a prominent position accessible at the point of sale, and you should avoid using labels that are small print, hidden or in a foreign language. Any products with multiple detachable elements must also be permanently labelled separately.

Using your Trade Mark
To ensure you’re communicating your rights appropriately, as well as maintaining the ability to enforce them in the future, you should also ensure that your trade mark rights are prominently applied across labels, in a manner that is consistent with how they’ve been registered.

Product labelling requirements can be complicated territory, particularly since it is often highly specific to your business and unique product offering. It pays to do your homework in the early stages of labelling development and avoid costly reprints if issues do arise.

We can assist you to ensure compliance by providing advice on country of origin labelling and specific product labelling laws. For more information on these services, please contact us.

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