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EU Metric Directive

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Beginning January 1, 2010, the European Union Council Directive 80/181/EEC (Metric Directive) will only allow the use of metric units, and prohibit the use of any other measurements for most products sold in the European Union (EU). Going well beyond labeling, the Metric Directive will make the sole use of metric units obligatory in all aspects of life in the European Union, extending to areas such as product literature and advertising.

Unless the Metric Directive is amended or the implementation date is extended, leaving U.S. customary units on a box or label will be illegal in the EU as of 2010. This will apply to labels, packaging, advertising, catalogs, technical manuals, and user instructions and end a longstanding practice in the European trade community of allowing manufacturers flexibility in how they label their products.

The Metric Directive will also create a standards inconsistency with U.S. law, as the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA) will still require the labels of many consumer products to include both metric and U.S. customary units. Companies on both sides of the Atlantic who make consumer products will have to create two different labels: one for the U.S. market, including both metric and imperial units, and another for the EU market, displaying only metric units. The incompatibility of the FPLA and the EU Metric Directive will impose additional costs on many businesses engaged in transatlantic trade in consumer goods by creating the need for separate packaging, labeling, warehousing, and inventory systems, thus imposing additional costs and especially impacting on small to medium sized enterprises.

However, there is a chance the legislation may be amended, depending on the outcome of a consultation on the EU Metric Directive just issued at the end of December which seeks public comment on the Metric Directive.

For additional information on the issue, click here.