GCC Standard Organization – Technical Regulation of Cosmetic and Personal Care Products Claims

GCC Standard Organization – Technical Regulation of Cosmetic and Personal Care Products Claims

On 07 July 2021, the Gulf Standardization Organization (GSO), a regional organization that consists of the National Standards Bodies of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Member States issued, via Technical Committee No. 12, an update to the draft Gulf Technical Regulation No. GSO 2528/2021 “Cosmetic products – Technical Regulation of cosmetic and personal care products claims” (“Draft”). This draft has been prepared by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

This regulation is concerned with the criteria of cosmetic products claims, and it describes the basic conditions of acceptable claims of cosmetics products. Products containing unacceptable claims according to this regulation may fall out of the scope of cosmetic products. Functions, scope of application and the intended use has also been mentioned in the GSO 1943 “Cosmetic Products – Cosmetic Products Safety Requirements”.

The Draft defines “cosmetic products” in language already in use by several Middle Eastern countries (e.g., United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, etc.), and which is a verbatim restatement of the European Union definition under the Cosmetic Products Regulation.[1] The Draft, in Section 3(3) enumerates those claims that are considered to be “Unacceptable Claims” relating to cosmetic products: “Claims that do not comply with the definition of cosmetic product and basic criteria for cosmetic products claims, including Claims [sic] of treating  medical conditions, or significant change in body physiological functions or influence the metabolism.”[2] The Draft goes on to differentiate between Primary Claims and Secondary Claims; however, the definitions are likely intuitive to most readers (A Primary Cosmetic Products Claim are those that “are clearly and prominently mentioned to the consumer and describe the main function of the product”, while Secondary Cosmetic Products Claims are “claims that describe the other functions of the product in addition to the main function”.)[3]

Section 4 of the Draft proposes the “basic criteria of cosmetic products claims”, and directs that “[a]ll claims and advertisements for cosmetic products much comply with the following criteria:”[4]

1.     Legal compliance

a.     Cosmetic products claims must comply with all laws within the Gulf Arab states, and that do not conflict with Islamic values or habits of society;

b.     The acceptability of a claim shall be based on the perception of the average end user of a cosmetic product, who is reasonably well-informed and linguistic factors in the market in question;

c.     Claims which convey the idea that a product has a specific benefit when this benefit is mere compliance with minimum legal requirements shall not be allowed.

2.     Truthfulness

a.     Neither the general presentation of the cosmetic product nor individual claims made for the product shall be based on false or irrelevant information. Such as “free of preservatives”, while the product actually contains preservatives;

b.     The cosmetic products claims must be true;

c.     f a product claims that it contains a specific ingredient, the ingredient shall be deliberately present;

d.     Ingredient claims referring to the properties of a specific ingredient shall not imply that the finished product has the same properties when it does not; and

e.     Claims on the label must have the same meaning in all languages.

While Section 4 makes the relatively common (in various other national laws, and not just limited to cosmetics) proposal, that claims, either implicit or explicit, should be supported by “adequate and verifiable evidence released by the manufacturer”, it does lay out the prospect for consideration of what are deemed (although not defined in the regulation), “ethical claims”. It is unclear at present if either future iteration(s) of the Draft, or even the final Law, will give more clarity to this term. The Section does make specific note that products where lack of efficacy (studies and/or data) may cause a safety problem, such as with sunscreens, shall be precluded by using relevant international standards. All assessments of claim acceptability shall specifically be “based on the weight of evidence” of all studies, data, and information available, including “the prevailing general knowledge of end users”.[5]

Uniquely. Section 4 contains a subsection entitled “Honesty”, which directs that certain aspects relating to the performance of the product “should not be overstated”, with provided examples being:[6]

1.     The amendment to the images before and after use to illustrate the effect of the product;

2.     Fine fragrances usually contain such a high amount of alcohol that the additional use of preservatives is not necessary. In this case, it would be dishonest to highlight in advertising the fact that a certain fine fragrance does not contain any preservatives;

3.     Claims shall not attribute to the product concerned specific (i.e., unique) characteristics if similar products possess the same characteristics; Presentations of a product’s performance shall not go beyond the available supporting evidence; and

4.     If the action of a product is linked to specific conditions, such as use in association with other products, this shall be clearly stated.

In the same vein, claims for cosmetic products should not denigrate competitors’ products, nor should they denigrate ingredients legally able to be used in such products. For example, if dibutyl and diethylhexyl phthalates are legally permitted to be used in cosmetic formulations in the country at issue, manufacturers may not tout their product as, potentially, “free from harmful dibutyl and diethylhexyl phthalates”.

Section 5 of the Draft presents a matrix of “Examples of Unacceptable Claims”, sorted by product category. As an aside, many of these claims are permitted in countries such as the United States, to varying degrees. For example:

Skin Care Product

·         “Makes skin younger”;

·         “Reduces aging”;

·         “Slows aging”/”Prevents aging”/”Eliminates aging”;

·         “Treats acne”[7];

·         “Prevents new spots from appearing”/”Eliminates  age spots”;

·         “Eases muscle pain/stiffness”; and

·         “Treats skin rash”.

 Hair Care Product

·         “Dandruff treatment”;

·         “Treats (prevents/heals/stops) hair loss”; and

·         “Stimulates hair growth”.

Mouth Care Product

·         “Removes/Whitens permanent stains”;

·         “[Relieves] gum and teeth pain; and

·         “Any references of the diseases of gum or teeth”.

The Notice and Comment period for the Draft runs through 05 September 2021. Comments should be addressed to the Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization (SASO). At present, there is no projected date for implementation.

[1] Regulation (Ec) No 1223/2009 of the European Parliament and Of the Council of 30 November 2009 on Cosmetic Products. Retrieved 06 July 2021 from: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:02009R1223-20190813&from=EN.

[2] Draft Gulf Technical Regulation No. GSO 2528/2021 “Cosmetic products – Technical Regulation of cosmetic and personal care products claims”. Retrieved 09 July 2021 from https://tsapps.nist.gov/notifyus/docs/wto_country/OMN/full_text/pdf/OMN441(arabic).pdf.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] The Draft does note that such cosmetics are permitted to claim “Improves acne/pimples appearance by hiding them”/”Improves the appearance of acne’s scars by hiding them”/”For acne-prone skin”.


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