‘Claims’ are the commonly referred term for the attributes and benefits that brands will state about their products, which appear on the packaging for that product and in all forms of its advertising.
But a claim does not even have to be written to be subject to the rules; they cover any text, names, trademarks, pictures and figures or other visuals. It can even be implied by the ingredients or the reviews you read online, or when social media influencers talk about the product.
The Common Criteria for Cosmetic Claims
In the UK, the rules for making claims about cosmetics are covered in the UK Cosmetics Regulation and the ‘Common Criteria for Cosmetic Claims’ (this last one is applicable in both the UK and EU).
The Common Criteria is broken down into 6 key aspects:
- Legal Compliance – all cosmetic products and claims must be compliant with the regulatory requirements; claims cannot imply that other products on the market aren’t, and they cannot state compliance with regulations as a special attribute of the product.
- Truthfulness – any information on the product and the way it is presented must be truthful and relevant. If it says it contains an ingredient, that ingredient must have been used purposefully in the formulation.
- Evidential Support – every claim must be capable of being proved by adequate and verifiable evidence. The evidence needed is always specific to the claim and there isn’t one test to prove them all, but it must exist.
- Honesty – what a product can do cannot be exaggerated, and claims can’t go beyond the evidence behind them.
- Fairness – claims can’t be used to compare unfairly against other competitors or formulations, even if it’s presented as an indirect comparison.
- Informed Decision-Making – as a consumer, the information should always be clear and understandable, so you feel confident making the choice that the product is right for you.
If a claim does not abide by all of these it is not allowed, so you can have confidence that your product should do exactly what you’re purchasing it for.
There is no approved list of cosmetic product claims or for the type and level of evidence behind it, it’s up to the company producing the product to be confident they can prove what they are saying about it if they are ever challenged by the authorities.
What do you do if you think a company is not playing by the rules and the product is not living up to the expectation?
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the UK’s independent advertising regulator, who makes sure adverts adhere to the rules. A member of the public can submit a complaint to the ASA if they have reason to believe an advert in printed media, social media or TV is offending or misleading them.
If the claim you think is misleading is on the product itself, you can report them to Trading Standards.
Trading Standards use the information you give them to investigate unfair trading and illegal business activity. They can take enforcement actions on businesses, but they can’t help with customer service problems such as getting a refund.