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Single-brand retailers have urged the government to decriminalize the provisions of the Legal Metrology Act at a recent meeting with officials of the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP).

The Legal Metrology Act, 2009, (LM Act) encompasses several mandatory declarations that retailers and manufacturers must ensure on every package—including name and address of the manufacturer, packer, importer, retail sale price, quantity and month and date of manufacturing. Violations of the law can lead to imprisonment.

The meeting was held between DIPP officials and several large retailers, including H&M, Decathlon, Ikea and Bestseller Retail, and others on Wednesday. Retailers discussed a range of issues around retail, including repercussions of the Legal Metrology Act and the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011.

Retailers said the Act was archaic and led to increased liability for the company’s top management. They argued that companies and their executives should not be subject to imprisonment in case of an oversight that leads to a violation of the Act.

“The big point for the retailers is that the whole thing around the Legal Metrology Act and the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011, is a contentious issue. If there is no criminal intent and if something has happened because of oversight, how can it be immediately considered criminal?" said a senior executive from the retail industry present at the meeting who did not wish to be named.

“Besides for companies to get into details of exactly where their product is manufactured is cumbersome, just country of origin should be fine as opposed to listing the exact location, town or city. That came up very clearly in the conversation," he added.

The mandatory declarations that need to be made under the provisions of the Act include name and address of the manufacturer, packer, importer; common or generic names of the commodity; net quantity, in terms of the standard unit of weight or measure, of the commodity. Moreover, the package needs to carry the month and year in which the commodity was manufactured or pre-packed or imported, apart from the retail sale price of the package and sizes and dimensions of the commodity wherever relevant.

“We are simply asking for decriminalizing this," said the executive.

Another retail executive present at the meeting said the conversation was more around challenges faced by retailers when it comes to labelling. “It was more about easing some of the labelling specifications that need to be done today in India," the person said.

In 2020 the Department of Consumer Affairs floated a stakeholder consultation proposing to decriminalize the Legal Metrology Act, 2009. The paper stated a need to review the civil and criminal penalties under the Act against those found in violation. However, the matter is still under consideration.

“The laws are old, but no one wants to change them. It poses many challenges to inspection. Plus, it’s a criminal offence where a director can be arrested," said the CEO of a large fashion brand who attended the meeting on the condition of anonymity.

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