03-31-2015, 03:12 AM
#1
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Please note: I have no vested interest in this other than as a consumer and poster on (mainly other) forums since 2011/12. My intentions are to raise awareness and provoke positive discussion on an issue which has not been raised or addressed previously. I have asked permission from the moderation team with the expectation that they would vet any objections. There were none. Finally, I have already posted this on other media in order to achieve the stated intention of raising awareness.

I will preface this by saying that the way in which the artisan 'movement' has expanded our choice and voice has been fantastic. When I first began to explore soap and aftershave in 2011, forum discussions were often about reformulations or discontinuations of favourite shaving soaps. (I never did get hold of a Sir Irisch Moos stick). Thankfully, today's small-scale soapmakers care about their customers, their products, and their craft. That is a truly good thing.

But I have concerns as to another recent development. Namely, the recent spate of EU-based distributors of non-compliant cosmetics (particularly American artisan soaps) who are breaking EU and UK laws to profit from supplying niche and artisan shaving products. This business practice is either negligent or exploitative and, until now, I don't believe that people are aware of it.

You can read the documentation at your leisure:
These regulations have clear repercussions for producers and distributors alike. In the UK, conviction in a Magistrates' Court could lead to a fine of up to £5000 (the statutory maximum), or imprisonment of up to three months, or to both. Conviction on indictment (Crown Court) could be £20,000 and twelve months respectively.

Regardless of one's political views on the EU, profiting financially through bypassing the law is wrong. It may well be expensive for small businesses to ensure compliance. It may be bureaucratic. It may stifle entrepreneurialism. But it is legislation that these vendors are meant to be accountable to. Soap producers like Nanny's, Wickham, Calani, Faena et al all have to comply. Distributors also have to ensure that the lines they stock comply. I won't name-and-shame those that do not. It is too obvious to be necessary.

You may well note that there are many long-standing vendors who have withheld from stocking non-compliant cosmetics. Is this a stunning lack of business acumen on their part? Of course not. They know that achieving compliance from most non-EU soapmakers is a) unprofitable, b) impractical, or c) impossible. They also hold principles that mean that they won't pursue unlawful commercial activities. Others, however, have grasped the nefarious opportunity left by this 'gap in the market'.

Some may advance an irrelevant (and likely flawed) 'free market' argument. For many, the issue will inevitably come back to this: 'If I enjoy x soap then what's the harm?'. These vendors are hardly living it up in ivory towers and lathering virgins' tears with unicorn hair brushes for their own daily shave. But I disagree with those who assuage their conscience by denying injury and/or victim. I appreciate that ethics are personal and that this is a complicated picture. Perhaps it'll be made simpler if and when soapmakers and vendors (past, present or future) choose not to make or supply because it would mean sharing a market with others who contravene the law to get a competitive advantage? Then again, I realise that there will be a vocal minority who couldn't care less whether their money goes to Help the Aged or Idi Amin so long as they aren't inconvenienced by customs duty, shipping times etc.

Ultimately, buying non-compliant soap and cosmetics for personal use doesn't compromise an individual's ethics. Note here that there is a distinction between buying a non-compliant product from an EU-based distributor (the problem) and buying directly from the maker for one's own use (perfectly acceptable). But to run a business selling products that breach the law is quite repugnant.

In an ideal world, these persons will quickly seek to a) certify their stock and achieve compliance, and b) cease trading in non-compliant goods. That is not unreasonable. However, my purpose in posting this thread was to raise awareness of the issue in the hope that they may redouble their efforts to support responsible enterprise.

I hope that this thread will be taken positively.

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 03-31-2015, 04:26 AM
#2
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Does this only apply to manufacturers and distributors? That is to say, can a European private individual go to Michigan and buy up a bunch of soap from Maggard's, then fly back with it?

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 03-31-2015, 04:42 AM
#3
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Hi, @crazindude,

There is a clear difference between buying a couple of soaps for personal use and import them massively to distribute them and make a profit. Of course, if I buy something for personal use, I'm buying at my own risk. But if I want to make a profit in the EU (or elsewhere) distributing a product, it makes sense that I comply with EU (or elsewhere's) rules.

It all depends on the quantity. How much is "a bunch of soaps"? If you buy a couple of them, they will probably let you go, as they won't notice them. And even if they notice it, you can easily justify that they are for personal use.
But if you buy 50 of them, you may have a hard time to justify that the whole bunch is for personal use. Customs taxes may apply, at the very least - and if they notice that they are not EU-compliant, you can see all of your bunch of soaps confiscated.

Many members just say that in EU, there are too many rules, that they are difficult to follow and blah blah blah.
But if a small artisan like e.g.: Sharon (Nanny's Silly Soaps) or Catherin (Calani) can follow the rules while producing a good product at a competitive price, others may do it as well, if they want. I truly respect the many European soap artisans that strive to produce a good product, while struggle to comply with the rules currently existent in the EU. Trying to bypass the rules is being dishonest, to say the least.

But once again, the responsibility lies not on the producer but on the entity that imports and distributes the product. If you want to sell and distribute a product in the EU, you have to make sure that all the laws and rules related to that product are fulfilled.

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 03-31-2015, 05:11 AM
#4
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(03-31-2015, 04:26 AM)EjHcrazindndude Wrote: Does this only apply to manufacturers and distributors? That is to say, can a European private individual go to Michigan and buy up a bunch of soap from Maggard's, then fly back with it?

Your example would be fine.  I'm flying to New York and could purchase as many as customs would allow me so long as it were for my personal use.

But as with all legal and moral matters, there are grey areas if a non-EU artisan chooses to supply the EU market with products that do not comply with EU law.  I highly doube that this would be enforceable but it has its implications nonetheless. 


There are varying shades of grey.  A soaper selling a soap and matching balm across the Atlantic as a one-off is a very different prospect to a soaper designing an "export line" to sell to the EU without compliance.  (NB: You may note that Wickham has two types of Super Smooth; the (non-compliant) yellow lid supplies the U.S. while the red lid is intended for the EU market.)  This has repercussions for those US soap makers who supply the EU distributors who are acting unlawfully.

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 03-31-2015, 05:18 AM
#5
  • Johnny
  • MODERATOR EMERITUS
  • Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
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Ben, not to be picky, but the color code you are using is not working on this site.  The codes showing are distracting from the post.  Just print in black or use the color codes in our toolbar.

Thank you

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 03-31-2015, 05:22 AM
#6
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(03-31-2015, 05:18 AM)DJohnny Wrote: Ben, not to be picky, but the color code you are using is not working on this site.  The codes showing are distracting from the post.  Just print in black or use the color codes in our toolbar.

Thank you

Hi Johnny,

My apologies. I typed the reply in an app as I'm on a train into London and dipping in and out of signal. Copy-and-pasting appears to have included the colour! I saw the broken code but couldn't seem to edit it.

Would it be possible to have a go for me?!

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 03-31-2015, 05:32 AM
#7
  • chamm
  • Expert on nothing
  • Central Ohio
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I clicked on the link for the first document, and it looks like hundreds of pages of legalese. I am, admittedly, being lazy, but for the benefit of me and others like me, could you sum up the parts of the EU law that you're talking about here? I'll set up a fictional example, so you needn't implicate anyone:

(This is fictional - there is not, nor ever will be a Chamm Soap Company)

Ok, so I am Chamm, founder of Chamm Soap Company, based in Snake's Navel, Idaho. I make and sell a successful line of soaps that I make in my basement. They have a fantastic reputation on the shaving forums, and I start getting requests from people in the EU to purchase a few pucks of soap. What are my responsibilities to send individual soaps to potential customers?

One day, I'm contacted by someone at shaving.ie who would like to carry several different scents of Chamm Shaving Soaps. Do my responsibilities as a manufacturer change?

I'm not asking this for personal reasons. I have a few shaving-related business ideas that I may someday try to market, but none of them involve soaps, balms or creams. I really just want to know more about what the expected behavior is for US based artisans to "do the right thing" when trying to sell overseas.

Thanks for the thread! I'm looking forward to learning something new.

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 03-31-2015, 05:35 AM
#8
  • chamm
  • Expert on nothing
  • Central Ohio
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Incidentally, I believe this may swing both ways. I heard a rumor that several German soap vendors had to stop selling products directly in the US that didn't conform to US labeling laws. I don't know if labeling has anything to do with what you're talking about in the thread. Anxious to learn. :-)

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 03-31-2015, 06:01 AM
#9
  • Johnny
  • MODERATOR EMERITUS
  • Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
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(03-31-2015, 05:22 AM)Burgundy Wrote:
(03-31-2015, 05:18 AM)DJohnny Wrote: Ben, not to be picky, but the color code you are using is not working on this site.  The codes showing are distracting from the post.  Just print in black or use the color codes in our toolbar.

Thank you

Hi Johnny,

My apologies. I typed the reply in an app as I'm on a train into London and dipping in and out of signal. Copy-and-pasting appears to have included the colour! I saw the broken code but couldn't seem to edit it.

Would it be possible to have a go for me?!

Well, I tried.  I got the color code out but I cannot get the type size to be the same as our default size.  It is what it is.

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 03-31-2015, 07:49 AM
#10
  • blzrfn
  • Butterscotch Bandit
  • Vancouver USA
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The laws are the laws.  I don't have any moral objection to vendors bending or breaking laws like these, but I also won't sympathize with their situation should they get fined or worse. 

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 03-31-2015, 08:21 AM
#11
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Let me note at the outset that reading and interpreting EC regulations and their amendments is not my strong suit, and I'm even less conversant in cosmetic ingredients and substances.  But in reviewing the timelines for compliance, determining whether a seller or distributor is or is not in compliance is really tricky because while Annex III ("LIST OF SUBSTANCES WHICH COSMETIC PRODUCTS MUST NOT CONTAIN EXCEPT SUBJECT TO THE RESTRICTIONS LAID DOWN") is currently in effect, sellers have until October 2015 be in compliance with Annex V ("LIST OF PRESERVATIVES ALLOWED IN COSMETIC PRODUCTS") and until late July, 2015 to be in compliance with Annex II ("LIST OF SUBSTANCES PROHIBITED IN COSMETIC PRODUCTS").  

So a distributor currently is only prohibited from selling products containing substances listed in Annex III without the restrictions also laid out in Annex III.  As well in the original law, Article 17 ("Traces of prohibited substances") does allow for prohibited substances to remain in the cosmetic so long as it is "non-intended" and stemming from the ingredients themselves or unavoidable in "good manufacturing processes."   So as of now I wouldn't castigate "non-compliant" distributors until they are actually in non-compliance.

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 03-31-2015, 08:30 AM
#12
  • Johnny
  • MODERATOR EMERITUS
  • Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
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(03-31-2015, 08:21 AM)jpakstis Wrote: This is really tricky because while Annex III ("LIST OF SUBSTANCES WHICH COSMETIC PRODUCTS MUST NOT CONTAIN EXCEPT SUBJECT TO THE RESTRICTIONS LAID DOWN") is currently in effect, sellers have until October 2015 be in compliance with Annex V ("LIST OF PRESERVATIVES ALLOWED IN COSMETIC PRODUCTS") and until late July, 2015 to be in compliance with Annex II ("LIST OF SUBSTANCES PROHIBITED IN COSMETIC PRODUCTS").  

So a distributor currently is only prohibited from selling products containing substances listed in Annex III without the restrictions also laid out in Annex III.  I wouldn't castigate "non-compliant" distributors until they are actually in non-compliance.

Josh, thanks for the short legal interpretation of the rules/laws.

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 03-31-2015, 08:43 AM
#13
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(03-31-2015, 08:30 AM)Johnny Wrote:
(03-31-2015, 08:21 AM)jpakstis Wrote: This is really tricky because while Annex III ("LIST OF SUBSTANCES WHICH COSMETIC PRODUCTS MUST NOT CONTAIN EXCEPT SUBJECT TO THE RESTRICTIONS LAID DOWN") is currently in effect, sellers have until October 2015 be in compliance with Annex V ("LIST OF PRESERVATIVES ALLOWED IN COSMETIC PRODUCTS") and until late July, 2015 to be in compliance with Annex II ("LIST OF SUBSTANCES PROHIBITED IN COSMETIC PRODUCTS").  

So a distributor currently is only prohibited from selling products containing substances listed in Annex III without the restrictions also laid out in Annex III.  I wouldn't castigate "non-compliant" distributors until they are actually in non-compliance.

Josh, thanks for the short legal interpretation of the rules/laws.

Johnny anyone who relies on my legal advice gets what they paid for!  I had to edit my original post just to say that my analyses was largely based on just the deadlines and not anything more nor would I even pretend to claim anything about EC laws or cosmetics in general.  

I would think that the long lag time from passage to implementation is meant to allow for B&M sellers to sell off and then remove non-compliant products from their shelves (hence why there are usually two deadlines - one to stop manufacturing the product and the other to stop selling the product) but I wonder where online-only sellers fall in these regulations?

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 03-31-2015, 08:45 AM
#14
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Not only that... it is also a matter of labelling.

In the EU, you have to list each and every component on the label, including those that can trigger an allergic reaction. The sequence of ingredients must also follow certain rules (listed from the major components to the minor ones, nomenclature rules, etc). Many US artisan soaps don't follow these basic labelling rules.

As for the distributors, they must have an authorization to sell the product in the EU, a process that involves some bureaucratic actions, and probably an analysis of the product made by the local national authority.

(03-31-2015, 05:35 AM)chamm Wrote: Incidentally, I believe this may swing both ways. I heard a rumor that several German soap vendors had to stop selling products directly in the US that didn't conform to US labeling laws. I don't know if labeling has anything to do with what you're talking about in the thread. Anxious to learn. :-)


But of course, that can also be possible.
As I said above, if you want to make a profit in the EU (or US, or elsewhere) distributing a product, it makes sense that you have to comply with EU (or US, or elsewhere's) rules.

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 03-31-2015, 10:40 AM
#15
  • Hanzo
  • Senior Member
  • Oakland, California
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Excellent thought provoking post Ben, Thank you.

We need to really think about our hobby, reducing it merely to thoughtless consumption of product will be a dead and potentially harmful end.

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 03-31-2015, 11:02 AM
#16
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(03-31-2015, 05:32 AM)chamm Wrote: I clicked on the link for the first document, and it looks like hundreds of pages of legalese. I am, admittedly, being lazy, but for the benefit of me and others like me, could you sum up the parts of the EU law that you're talking about here? I'll set up a fictional example, so you needn't implicate anyone:

(This is fictional - there is not, nor ever will be a Chamm Soap Company)

Ok, so I am Chamm, founder of Chamm Soap Company, based in Snake's Navel, Idaho. I make and sell a successful line of soaps that I make in my basement. They have a fantastic reputation on the shaving forums, and I start getting requests from people in the EU to purchase a few pucks of soap. What are my responsibilities to send individual soaps to potential customers?

One day, I'm contacted by someone at shaving.ie who would like to carry several different scents of Chamm Shaving Soaps. Do my responsibilities as a manufacturer change?

I'm not asking this for personal reasons. I have a few shaving-related business ideas that I may someday try to market, but none of them involve soaps, balms or creams. I really just want to know more about what the expected behavior is for US based artisans to "do the right thing" when trying to sell overseas.

Thanks for the thread! I'm looking forward to learning something new.

Dear Chamm what kind of soaps do you make? Are they Tallow based or Vegan? They must be new because I have not heard of them before. I must re-Google them.

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 03-31-2015, 11:15 AM
#17
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(03-31-2015, 11:02 AM)EJaggerMan Wrote:
(03-31-2015, 05:32 AM)chamm Wrote: I clicked on the link for the first document, and it looks like hundreds of pages of legalese. I am, admittedly, being lazy, but for the benefit of me and others like me, could you sum up the parts of the EU law that you're talking about here? I'll set up a fictional example, so you needn't implicate anyone:

(This is fictional - there is not, nor ever will be a Chamm Soap Company)

Ok, so I am Chamm, founder of Chamm Soap Company, based in Snake's Navel, Idaho. I make and sell a successful line of soaps that I make in my basement. They have a fantastic reputation on the shaving forums, and I start getting requests from people in the EU to purchase a few pucks of soap. What are my responsibilities to send individual soaps to potential customers?

One day, I'm contacted by someone at shaving.ie who would like to carry several different scents of Chamm Shaving Soaps. Do my responsibilities as a manufacturer change?

I'm not asking this for personal reasons. I have a few shaving-related business ideas that I may someday try to market, but none of them involve soaps, balms or creams. I really just want to know more about what the expected behavior is for US based artisans to "do the right thing" when trying to sell overseas.

Thanks for the thread! I'm looking forward to learning something new.

Dear Chamm what kind of soaps do you make? Are they Tallow based or Vegan? They must be new because I have not heard of them before. I must re-Google them.

Not sure if you're joking, but I'm 99.999999% sure Chamm is. He just made that company up as a hypothetical for his case.

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