As a free trade zone, Hong Kong regulates cosmetics in a very relaxed manner. There is no specific regulations regulating cosmetics and no positive/negative lists. Although cosmetics require compliance with Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance and Trade Description Ordinance the two regulations don’t make any provisions relating to cosmetics clearly. The supervision on cosmetics only appears in the post-market surveillance and random inspection when clearing customs. Due to lack of pre-market requirements, cosmetics can enter into Hong Kong almost freely.
Part 1 Regulatory Framework and Competent Authority
1 Existing Main Cosmetic Regulations in Hong Kong
Feb 6, 2015
|Consumer Goods Safety Regulation (Cap. 456 Section 30 (1)(a))||Apr 1, 1998||In force|
Jul 1, 2019
2 Competent Authority of Cosmetics
The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (CEDB) is responsible for formulating and revising the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance.
The Customs & Excise is responsible for responsible for enforcing the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance and conducting post-market inspections.
Part 2 Cosmetic Products
Hong Kong doesn’t define cosmetics but considers cosmetic and skin care products as consumer goods. Consumer products are subject to the regulation of the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance. The Ordinance stipulates that manufacturers, importers and suppliers should ensure that the consumer goods they supply in the market meet "the general safety requirement". Under this requirement, the consumer goods concerned must be reasonably safe. In determining whether a particular consumer good complies with this requirement, due regard should be made to all circumstances, including:
the manner in which, and the purpose for which, the consumer goods are presented, promoted or marketed;
the use of any mark in relation to the consumer goods and instructions or warnings given for the keeping, use or consumption of the consumer goods;
reasonable safety standards published by a standards institute or similar body for a consumer goods of the description which applies to the consumer goods or for matters relating to consumer goods of that description; and
the existence of any reasonable means (taking into account the cost, likelihood and extent of any improvement) to make the consumer goods safer.
The above are all the contents in the "the general safety requirement". The Ordinance doesn’t specify any further requirements for cosmetics as well as the restrictions for cosmetics ingredients. In addition, there is no pre-market approval (either notification or license) for cosmetics in Hong Kong. The Customs & Excise will check if cosmetics comply with the above mentioned general requirements only at the time of clearing customs or conducting post-market inspections.
But generally speaking, if the goods can meet overseas or international safety standards (such as the standards of the Mainland, the United States, the European Union, Australia or Japan), they will be considered as meeting the requirement under the Ordinance.
2 Post-market Surveillance
Customs & Excise is responsible for post-market surveillance for cosmetics. For regulating the safety of cosmetics, Customs & Excise will, in accordance with the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance, consider relevant reasonable safety standards, including the standards or requirements issued by the European Union, the United States and the Mainland.
The post-market surveillance activities include investigation of complaints from customer and spot checks on retailers to check if they put up for sale unsafe or suspected unsafe products (such as those subject to recall overseas). Customs & Excise also takes product samples for testing by the Government Laboratory, closely monitors local and overseas media reports, as well as reports published by safety organizations on potential hazards relating to cosmetic and skin care products, so that appropriate measures could be taken against suspected unsafe products. When a particular product is found to have breached the requirement under the Ordinance, Customs & Excise will require retailers to stop selling and recall that unsafe product, and will prosecute offenders. On first conviction, the penalty is a maximum fine of $100,000 and an imprisonment for one year, and on subsequent convictions, the penalty is a maximum fine of $500,000 and an imprisonment for two years.
There are also no specific requirements for labeling, such as required information on labels or prohibited/allowed claims.
Only the Consumer Goods Safety Regulation mentions several sentences regarding labeling, which are as follows:
“(1) Where consumer goods or their packages are marked with, or where any labels affixed to or any documents enclosed in their packages contain, any warning or caution with respect to their safe keeping, use, consumption or disposal, such warning or caution shall be in both the English and the Chinese languages.
(2) A warning or caution referred to in subsection (1) shall be legible and shall be placed in a conspicuous position on-
the consumer goods;
any package of the consumer goods;
a label securely affixed to the package; or
a document enclosed in the package,
as the case may require.
(3) A person who supplies consumer goods which do not comply with subsection (1) or (2) commits an offence and shall be liable-
on first conviction, to a fine at level 6 and to imprisonment for 1 year; and
on subsequent conviction, to a fine of $500000 and to imprisonment for 2 years.”
The Commissioner of Customs & Excise has the right to require the manufacturer, importer or supplier of consumer goods, including cosmetic products, to modify their labelling, packaging or advertising to make sure that they comply with the general safety requirement.
Trade Description Ordinance supplements that it is prohibited to use false trade descriptions, false, misleading or incomplete information, false marks and misstatements in respect of goods supplied including cosmetics.
Part 3 Pharmaceutical Products
If cosmetics contain western drug ingredients, they are "pharmaceutical products" as defined under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance. Such products must first be registered with the Pharmacy and Poisons Board before they can be legally sold in Hong Kong. For pharmaceutical products to be registered in Hong Kong, they must fulfill requirements in terms of safety, quality and efficacy. If products contain ingredients that meet the definition of "proprietary Chinese medicine" as stipulated under the Chinese Medicine Ordinance, they must firstly be registered with the Chinese Medicines Board under the Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong, before they can be imported, locally manufactured and sold. Proprietary Chinese medicines must fulfill the requirements in terms of safety, quality and efficacy as set by the said Council in order to gain registration.