The Official Journal of the Republic of Portugal of January 4, 2022, publishes the Decree “Decreto-Lei n.o 3/2022” which sets the country’s mandatory Leather Authenticity Rules. With this legislation, yet another EU Member State puts an end to deceptive practices involving the abuse of the term leather, including misleading or false descriptions such as “Vegan leather”, “Cactus leather”, “synthetic leather” and artificial leather”. Such oxymorons are now prohibited and their use will henceforth be sanctioned by the authorities with fines and criminal prosecution.
The decree clearly defines ‘leather’, ‘full-grain leather’, ‘coated leather’, and ‘leather split’. It sets strict requirements for the use of these terms, establishing that the term leather cannot be combined with qualifiers, prefixes, or suffixes that contradict the intrinsic nature of leather. Transgressing these legal prescriptions constitutes a deceptive practice and carries the corresponding procedural consequences.
It is explicit that lawful descriptions involving the term ‘leather’ are to be considered in the labeling, marking, and advertising of materials used in consumer products placed on the market. The legislation promotes the use of correct and truthful information for consumers with the aim of empowering them to make informed choices.
The decree addresses the need to eliminate unfair commercial practices which “falsify competition and distort the information arriving at the consumers” acknowledging that they “harm consumers and the industry, affecting its competitiveness”.
“With this law, our Government acknowledges the strategic importance of leather and leather products for the Portuguese economy and the need for protecting it from deceptive commercial practices,” says APIC President Nuno Carvalho (Couro Azul), expressing his satisfaction for the successful completion of the legislative process.
In Europe, the term ‘leather’ is legally protected in Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, and now in Portugal. Hungary is currently working on similar legislation and other countries are considering going along the same path.
“While we absolutely welcome this legal development in Portugal, in COTANCE we were expecting that the European Commission would finally decide to proceed to a long-awaited harmonization of leather authenticity rules at EU level,” says COTANCE President Manuel Rios (Inpelsa).
Indeed, during the completion of the EU internal market in 1992, the European Commission harmonized national rules on textile denominations and for footwear labeling but failed to do the same for leather. Such a market and regulatory failure at the EU level are currently being corrected with the development of leather authenticity rules at the national level.