Myanmar: Unlicensed online cosmetic retailers to face possible legal action

People who are selling cosmetics online without permission from the Department of Food and Drug Administration (DFDA) will face action under the Export and Import Law, said Director of the Department of Consumer Affairs U Myint Cho.

Online cosmetics sellers currently do not pay taxes to the government and do not abide by the requirement to use Myanmar-language labels. The products are imported without proper descriptions of the goods on parcels. As a result of this, the Myanmar Cosmetics Association demanded during a regular meeting between the Private Sector Development Committee and the association’s representatives that the relevant authorities  issue instructions for online cosmetics sellers to abide by the rules officially recognised importers of cosmetics products have to follow.

“We can take action if they are selling without the DFDA’s permission, this is clear. Although we have conducted checks for the sake of the public, we have also received complaints about products purchased online. If customers complain, we will check whether the imports are via legal channels or not by working with the relevant authorities. For food, medicine and cosmetics, DFDA checks when they are imported. If the goods are not in compliance with local regulations, action can be taken under the  Export and Import Law as well as National Food Law by the DFDA,” said U Myint Cho.

Officially recognised importers obey government regulations, so online sellers need to follow them, said U Kyaw Min, chair of the Myanmar Cosmetics Association.

“Online sellers don’t follow DFDA regulations, neither do they pay taxes. They also do not follow the new requirements that product labels have to be in the local language. This puts official importers at a disadvantage and also jeapordises public safety,” U Kyaw Min said.

The Consumer Protection Law was enacted in 2014 and amended in 2019.  The Consumer Affairs Department was formed in 2016 to help oversee the regulations under the law.

“The danger with online sales of cosmetic products is that there is little guarantee of safety or quality. Consumers order these products and sometimes complain if they are unsatisfactory. The greater danger is that some of the goods might be harmful to health,” said U Myint Cho, adding that consumer protection requires the cooperation of the public and retailers.

“I used to use a South Korean facial cream with Korean labelling. It was really effective. My face got softer and brighter. Some of my friends tried to warn me to not use cosmetics from the internet. But I still used it as it was effective. Then an announcement came out, prohibiting that product as it was found to have a high mercury content. I got scared and stopped using it. I realised that it would be dangerous to continue using it,” said Ma Phyo Phyo, an employee of real estate company who spoke to Myanmar Times about her experience with cosmetics bought online.

According to the Consumer Protection Law 2019, business owners who are found to have  failed to provide the due consumer rights will receive a warning, face recovery action or replacement of goods, and be required to provide monetary compensation according to the damage caused by a faulty product or service.

If the law’s stipulations are breached, business owners may be required to pay compensating the victim, face fines, a prohibition on the disputed product or service for a limited period, and temporary or permanent revoking of the business licence.

For breaches of the Export and Import Law, the penalty is imprisonment of no more than three years or a fine or both can be. The accomplices can also be judged as the violators and the evidence of the breach can be confiscated.