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June 23, 2015

LAWS YOU MUST FOLLOW WHEN PACKAGING YOUR HANDMADE PRODUCTS




Do you package your handmade cream in a jar? Do you have the product name, volume and your business’ name and address clearly printed on each label? If not, you may be in violation of Canada’s laws when it comes to packaging and labeling.

Regardless of whether your business is big or small, you’re still required to follow the local laws when it comes to labeling. This step is often overlooked when starting up a handmade business and it can feel overwhelming at first glance. Not to worry! We’re here to help.

We placed a call to the Competition Bureau of Canada for a little more clarification. Our initial question was in regards to handmade businesses:
  • If I’m a small, handmade business, do I have to follow all the rules in the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act? YES
  • All of them? YES
  • The placement of the label, the height of the text? YES
  • Have both English and French? IN MOST CASES, YES

So there’s your first word of warning; just because you’re a small business, doesn’t mean that you are exempt from these laws.

Here's your second warning of the article:
These are guides to labeling in Canada and are in no way legal advice. You are 100% responsible for ensuring you understand your government’s laws and are applying them properly. If you’re unsure about anything, please follow the resource links at the end of each article for more information on the subjects or get in contact with the proper organizations. We put several calls in, to be sure we understood these rules properly and they were always really helpful.


CONSUMER PACKAGING AND LABELLING ACT


This is in place to ensure that prepackaged consumer products are labeled with proper information so that consumers can make informed purchasing decisions.The guide applies to prepackaged non-food consumer products. As prepackaged products relate to handmade items on Made Urban, we’re generally talking about items like handmade creams, scrubs, cards, candles etc. that may be packaged in a container or box of some sort.

There are also additional labeling regulations that apply to:

EXEMPTIONS

There are some products that are exempt from the labeling act which you can view here and here. If you’re a Made Urban member, the area that might interest you is “certain artist supplies”. Examples they list for artist supplies that do not need to follow the labeling act are: Prepackaged products consisting of materials that are produced or manufactured for use by artists, namely; colors of painting, dyeing or printing, ceramic and enameling colors and glazes and surfaces and tools.

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Label information must show:

1) Product Identity
2) Product Net Quantity
3) Dealer's Name and Place of Business


1) PRODUCT IDENTITY

This is the common name of the product (i.e face wash).

Exceptions

You may not be required to have this on your label if:
  • the product is sold by count (i.e sold by 1 bar of soap as opposed to 100 ml of hand cream) and packaged in a way that the customer is able to see the product
  • the product is sold by count and shows and accurate pictorial representation of the contents

Languages

The Product Identity must appear in both English and French, expect for a few specific cases, which are listed below. Being a “Local Product” is one of the exceptions, which is when your product is made and sold in a city/town where less than 10% of the population speaks one of the languages. I wasn’t sure how one could be sure the exact percent of a population that spoke either English or French so I called the bureau and here are some helpful points I was given:
  • you can contact Statistics Canada to get the exact percent to be absolutely certain
  • you can use your discretion; if you’re fairly certain you’re not serving French speaking customers you may decide not to include French on your labels
  • however, you will still be liable if you decide not to include French and it turns out there actually is more than 10% of the population that speaks French
  • the competition bureau responds to complaints; the labeling system works on a honor system so you don’t need your labels approved but if someone complains that a product isn’t labeled properly, they will investigate
  • the 10% is for a legal guideline; if someone complains that your label should have French and it doesn’t, they need to have a number to consistently follow whether someone is in violation or not

End of the day, if you’re having labels printed, it may be safest to get them printed with both English and French. If you’re only selling your products within your city (which speaks English) but a store from a city that speaks French calls you and wants to carry your line, you don’t want to have to rip all your labels off or have new ones printed.

Here are all the exceptions to this bilingual rule; meaning you don't need to have both English & French when:

Location

This information must appear on the Principle Display Panel, which is the portion of the package that is normally displayed to the customer (i.e. the front of a box). For containers that don’t have a particular side or surface, the principle display surface is any 40% of the total surface area of the container (excluding the top and bottom) that is visible to the consumer. 

Where the container of a prepackaged product is an ornamental container, all of the label of the prepackaged product may be applied to the bottom of the container or to a tag that is attached to the container. An ornamental container is consider one that may have dual purpose of not only holding the product but being used as a decorative ornament as well. For example; if the container has a raised design, texture or shape that doesn’t allow a label to be placed on it, a label may be applied to the bottom of the container or you may use a tag to attach a label.

Text Size

The text must be legible and the type height must be a minimum of 1.6 mm. A little more info on that here.


2) PRODUCT NET QUANTITY

This must be displayed in the proper choice of measurement, based on your product. For example, you can’t display your Net Quantity by count (i.e. 1 Face Wash) when your face wash is liquid; it needs to be measured by volume (i.e 100ml). Your products may be measured by:

  • count when the product is sold by individual units (i.e 1 candle)
  • by volume when the product is liquid, a gas or is viscous (i.e 100 ml of face wash)
  • by metric units of weight when the product is solid (i.e. 10 g bar of soap)
  • by length when the product is measured by length (i.e 2 meters of ribbon)
  • by metric units of area, length and width as well as number of sheets or rolls when the product is bi-dimensional (i.e wrapping paper)
Exceptions

The Net Quantity is not required on the label if:
  • the quantity is measured by count (i.e. 1 candle), the count is 1 and your Product Identity reads singular. For example, if your sticker reads “Scented Candle” and you sell them individually, you do not need to include the Net Quantity on the label. If your label reads “Scented Candles” and you have 6 candles in a package the consumer can not see inside of, you need to state that there are 6 candles in the package.
  • The product is sold by count (i.e. 1 candle) and customers are able to see the contents of the package and there are less than 13 items in the package which can be easily counted. For example, if you sell 6 candles in a set and you’re using a box with a clear lid; the customer can easily see for himself or herself that there are 6 candles in the package.
Language & Precision

The Net Quantity must also appear in English and French, using a valid metric word or symbol for the unit of measurement your are using and the amount must be rounded off correctly to the required degree of precision. Yes, it’s that specific. Please follow the guidelines here for the correct metric words and symbols for units of measurement and here for the degrees of precision.

Location

This information must appear on the Principle Display Panel, which is the portion of the package that is normally displayed to the customer (i.e. the front of a box). For containers that don’t have a particular side or surface, the principle display surface is any 40% of the total surface area of the container (excluding the top and bottom) that is visible to the consumer.

Where the container of a prepackaged product is an ornamental container, all of the label of the prepackaged product may be applied to the bottom of the container or to a tag that is attached to the container. An ornamental container is consider one that may have dual purpose of not only holding the product but being used as a decorative ornament as well. For example; if the container has a raised design, texture or shape that doesn’t allow a label to be placed on it, a label may be applied to the bottom of the container or you may use a tag to attach a label.


Font Type

The quantity must be clear, in bold face type and meet the height requirements; which is dependent on the Principle Display Surface (i.e. the larger the label, the larger the Net Quantity type height must be). Please visit this section for details on that.



3) DEALER’S NAME & PLACE OF BUSINESS (Dealer Identification)

That’s you / your business. The “Dealer” is the person who is a retailer, manufacturer, processor, or producer of a product or who is engaged in the business of packaging, selling or importing a product.

The name of your business and address must be indicated on your label. Yes, even if you work out of your home. The address on your label must be sufficient to ensure postal delivery.

Location

This information must appear on the Principle Display Panel, which is the portion of the package that is normally displayed to the customer (i.e. the front of a box). For containers that don’t have a particular side or surface, the principle display surface is any 40% of the total surface area of the container (excluding the top and bottom) that is visible to the consumer.

Where the container of a prepackaged product is an ornamental container, all of the label of the prepackaged product may be applied to the bottom of the container or to a tag that is attached to the container. An ornamental container is consider one that may have dual purpose of not only holding the product but being used as a decorative ornament as well. For example; if the container has a raised design, texture or shape that doesn’t allow a label to be placed on it, a label may be applied to the bottom of the container or you may use a tag to attach a label.

Language

The Dealer Identification may be in English OR French and must be clearly legible and the font must be at least 1.6 mm in height.



OTHER IMPORTANT NOTES

Factual

The act also ensures that dealers are not selling products in a container that is misleading as to the quantity or quality of the product.

Labelling must be factual when it comes to:
  • Amount that is contained within the package Substances included
  • Quality (if it’s new or used)
  • Method of Manufacture (if the item is handmade)
  • Origin (where the item is made)
  • Function
  • Performance
  • Capacity
  • Packaging
There are certain products that require a standard size which applies only to: wine, peanut butter, glucose syrup and refined sugar syrup.

If you're putting the label "Product of Canada" or "Made in Canada" claims on your labels, they are subject to specific assessment criteria.

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PENALTIES

As mentioned earlier, the Competition Bureau of Canada responds to complaints so they’re not checking every business for proper labeling practices. That being said, you are liable if someone complains and you are in fact in violation. Not following the sections and regulations of the act can result in a fine, anywhere from $1000 - $10,000 and even imprisonment, depending on the offence. Pretty important to be sure you have all your ducks in a row!


This article is in no way legal advice. Be sure to read and fully understand the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and Regulations.


Resources



Contact Information:
Competition Bureau
Industry Canada
50 Victoria Street
Gatineau, QC K1A 0C9

Tel.: 819-997-4282
Toll free: 1-800-348-5358
TTY (hearing impaired): 1-800-642-3844
Fax:
819-997-0324
Fax on demand: 819-997-2869

Web site:www.competitionbureau.gc.ca


If you found this article helpful, sign up for our SELLER NEWSLETTER for more tips, tools and advice on running your creative small business.

You may also be interested in these reads:
Are you Labeling your Handmade Textile Products Properly?
How To Calculate the Price of your Handmade Goods
Determining your Start Up Costs
Should I Start a Handmade Business?
Registering Your Business
Should I Trademark my Company's Name or Logo?
How To Photograph your Handmade Goods
Comments
Heather MacLean
2016-09-01 10:18
WOW.... this is incredible. Can you imagine the number of people out there who relax with knitting and crochet and make so much they start selling it... across the nation? Then there are the jam makers... and so on... if I knew their emails I'd send your page to them. I am flabbergasted myself and will do my best to follow the rules of course.
Sincere thanks for waking us all out of our lethargy. I surmise that 9 out of 10 people think if they make money "online", it doesn't count as income; its "free" money! The naked truth is going to hurt badly.
Made Urban
2016-09-01 06:50
Thanks for reading Heather! I'm sure there are several makers who are unaware of the rules when it comes to packaging. Unfortunately it's not always easy to figure them out either. Glad this article was helpful :)
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