Overview of the different labeling and marking requirements, including any restrictive advertising or labeling practices and where to get more information.
South Africa has a well-developed regulatory standards regime that oversees the labeling and marking requirements.
The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS, an agency of the Department of Trade and Industry, or DTI) and its accredited divisions and agents, is the national standards, homologation and accreditation authority. SABS oversees labeling and marking in the following categories:
- Food and Health
- Mechanical and Materials
- Mining and Minerals
A detailed listing of the relevant technical specifications by product is given at
http://www.sabs.co.za/ (see Commercial Services).
SABS is responsible for the issuing of LOAs (Letters of Authority), i.e., the control documentation on the importation of several items where certain standards must be met. Imports into South Africa must comply with the specifications for a given product or the relevant application.
If an imported product does not bear a quality or standards specification marking, the importer will finally be liable for the quality of the product. Established importers will therefore want to divest themselves of this liability by ensuring the product under discussion complies with the pertinent specifications and bears the relevant standards marking.
The marking and labeling often revolve around the categories listed above to ensure consumer and environmental protection. Often the importer will insist that the foreign manufacturer affix these at the time of manufacture or shipment from the factory. Only in exceptional cases will the importer, wholesaler, or retailer at the bulk break stage be prepared to affix these labels and markings.
Labeling and marking requirements pertain mainly to textiles, shoes, and bags, where a permanent label identifying the manufacturer and country of origin must be displayed. This process is administered by ITAC. Other controlled import items that are subject to pre-import approval (noxious chemicals, pharmaceuticals, bacteriological, nuclear/radioactive, and dangerous/volatile items) are imported by registered importers whose labeling and marking requirements are defined on an ad hoc basis during the product approval process.
It is common practice for retailers to insist that imported technical goods carry safety instructions or other user guides in the English language. Pictures and/or diagrams often supplement English user instructions. While liability laws and conventions in South Africa are not as onerous as in the United States, the retailer, wholesaler, and importer aim to reduce their liability to a minimum. South African legal practice follows the precepts of English Commercial Law, as well as Roman Dutch civil law.
It is common for the user to indicate details of the official South African service agent for the product, and, less often, the importer of the product. This user instruction will also indicate the information about the South African warranty.
The 2011 South African Consumer Protection Act (CPA) gives consumers greater legal clout when lodging product liability damages claims. The act places greater liability on foreign manufacturers in addition to their distributors, and shifts greater burden of proof on the manufacturer, not the consumer, should someone sue for damages. The stricter rule allows for the foreign company’s assets in South Africa to be forfeited to pay any damages caused by the product. The provisions of the CPA are especially important when it comes to labeling. U.S. manufacturers must take extra care on any product that needs warning labels or product information sheets explaining product use, as both the local retailer as well as the manufacturer could be liable.
Please also see the Labeling and Marking subsection under Standards.