Hungary - Stores must inform consumers and manufacturers and distributors must notify the authority if they replace their pre-packaged products with new, smaller packs compared to the pre-existing reference packs.
The purpose of the newly introduced Government Decree no. 1/2024 (I. 9.) is to inform consumers when a larger unit of a pre-packaged product is replaced by a smaller one. This will be the obligation of traders. Pursuant to the Government Decree, a trader is defined as a trader whose main activity is the retail sale of non-specialised stores with food (NACE code: 4711) and whose consolidated net turnover from trading activities in the precedent financial year exceeds HUF 1 billion (approx. EUR 2,600,000) in Hungary.
The new regulation is subjected at pre-packaged products under the definition of pre-packaged product set forth by Council Directive no. 76/211/EEC of 20 January 1976 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the making-up by weight or by volume of certain pre-packaged products. Accordingly, a pre-packaged product is a combination of the product and the individual package in which it is prepacked, if
a) the product is not packaged in the presence of the consumer of the end user,
b) the quantity of the product contained in the packaging is predetermined,
c) the quantity cannot be changed without opening or noticeably altering the packaging, and
d) the product is sold in nominal quantities which
i. equal to values predetermined by the packer,
ii. are expressed in units of weight or volume,
iii. are not less than 5 g or 5 ml and not more than 10 kg or 10 l.
Under the Government Decree, traders are obliged to provide information to consumers in the following cases:
If a new, smaller unit of a given pre-packaged product is placed on the market after 1 February 2024 than the one that was on the market in the period between 1 January 2020 and 1 July 2023 (reference period) AND the trader no longer distributes the larger unit of the product.
If the trader places on the market a smaller unit of a pre-packaged product during the period between 1 July 2023 and 1 February 2024, regardless of whether the trader continues to distribute the larger unit of the product.
The trader has no information obligation if the smaller unit of the pre-packaged product is placed on the market without the earlier units being phased out for at least 6 months AND the trader continues to distribute them.
Commencement of displaying the notification: for products subject to the information obligation which are placed on the market in Hungary after 1 March 2024, the notification must be displayed at the commencement of marketing. For products where the smaller units were placed on the market in Hungary between 1 July 2023 and 29 February 2024, the notification must be displayed by the trader first from 1 March 2024.
Display period: 2 months from placing the smaller unit of the pre-packaged product on the market.
The form of the notification will be determined by a Ministerial Decree issued by the minister responsible for trade.
The Government Decree also imposes obligation on manufacturers of pre-packaged products. Pursuant to the Government Decree, a manufacturer is defined as the actual manufacturer, the person responsible for designing or manufacturing or the person distributing the product under its own name or trademark at retail or wholesale.
Under the Government Decree, manufacturers have the following obligations:
The manufacturer is obliged to inform the trader of the reduction of the product unit and of the possible phasing out of the previous units in connection with smaller pre-packaged product unit at the time of first selling the smaller unit to the trader.
Simultaneously with informing the trader, the manufacturer must also inform the competent authority, the National Food Chain Safety Office (Nemzeti Élelmiszerlánc-biztonsági Hivatal, NÉBIH) with the same content as the information provided to the trader.
Notification deadline: at the time of first selling the smaller unit of the pre-packaged product for products placed on the market after 1 March 2024; 15 February 2024 for products placed on the market between 1 July 2023 and 29 February 2024.
Official control and sanction:
The consumer protection authority (i.e., the government offices) will be responsible for the official control of compliance with the above-described information obligations.
In the event of any breach of the mandatory information obligations prescribed by the Government Decree, the consumer protection authority may impose an administrative fine of HUF 1,000,000 (Approx. EUR 2,600) per product on the manufacturer or the trader responsible for the breach.
Publicly available register: Based on the information provided, the National Food Chain Safety Office will maintain a publicly available register on its website of the products subject to the information obligations.
Contact: Eszter Ritter, Csilla Bertha