Consumers will no longer risk inadvertently buying textiles that contain real fur or leather, thanks to new textile labelling rules approved by Parliament on Wednesday. The new rules should also ensure that new fibres and innovative products reach the market faster. The Commission will be asked for an assessment report, by 2013, on a possible origin labelling scheme, which may be accompanied by a legislative proposal.
On Wednesday MEPs approved, by a show of hands, a second-reading agreement struck by Parliament and the Council just before Easter on a new regulation on textile labelling. Parliament's negotiators, led by Dutch MEP Toine Manders (ALDE), won concessions from Member States on mandatory labelling of fur and leather parts and a feasibility study on origin labelling.
Fur and leather must be mentioned
Any use of animal-derived materials will have to be clearly stated on textile product labels. Fur is often used to trim relatively inexpensive garments and it is often hard for consumers to distinguish between real fur and good quality fake fur. Parliament has ensured that textiles containing such products must be labelled "contains non-textile parts of animal origin" to enable consumers to identify them. Allergy sufferers, for whom fur is a potential health hazard, will be among the beneficiaries.
The Commission is also asked to carry out a study, by 30 September 2013, on hazardous substances to assess whether there is a causal link between allergic reactions and chemical substances (e.g. colourings, biocides or nanoparticles), used in textile products.
"Made in" labels
Parliament had sought to make origin labelling mandatory for textile products imported from third countries. This proposal proved very controversial for some Member States. Although Parliament pushed throughout the negotiations for this requirement to be included, the Council did not agree.
However, the Council did agree to ask the Commission to present a study, also by 30 September 2013, on the feasibility of an origin labelling scheme to give consumers "accurate information on the country of origin and additional information ensuring full traceability of textile products". This assessment report may be accompanied by a legislative proposal.
Possible new labelling requirements and new technologies
The Commission's report should also assess the feasibility of harmonising care labelling requirements (currently voluntary), an EU-wide uniform size labelling system for clothes and the indication of allergenic substances.
Parliament also stresses the need to assess how new technologies, such as micro-chips or radio-frequency identification (RFID), could in future be used instead of traditional labels to convey information to consumers.
Exemption for self-employed tailors
The new regulation also provides for an exemption from mandatory labelling requirements for customised textile products made up by self-employed tailors.
After today's approval by Parliament, the new textile labelling rules on textile labelling must still be formally signed by the Member States. The new regulation will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the EU Official Journal. However, for the new labelling requirements, such as the rules on labelling of fur parts, there will be a 2 ½ year transition period to allow the industry time to adapt.
Procedure: Co-decision, 2nd reading, regulation