Labelling requirements

Certain goods must be correctly labelled with a trade description before they can be imported into Australia. Not all imported goods require labelling. Imported goods that require labelling, but do not meet labelling requirements, may be seized.

The Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act 1905 (the Act) and the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Regulation 2016 (the Regulation) set out which goods or classes of goods require labelling when being imported into Australia, what label is required and where the label must be applied.

A trade description means any description, statement, indication or suggestion, direct or indirect, as to the how or by whom the goods were made, produced, selected, packed or otherwise prepared. The trade description must:

  • be in the English language and in prominent and legible characters
  • include the name of the country where the goods were made or produced
  • where required, include a true description of the goods ('true description' is not defined in the legislation so is taken to be anything that is a correct and accurate explanation of the goods)
  • unless a prepacked article, be in the form of a principal label or brand (including a mark, device, name, word, letter, numeral or symbol and a combination of 2 or more of those things) attached in a prominent position, and as permanently as practicable, to the goods – if attachment to the goods is impracticable, to the principal coverings containing the goods for wholesale or retail.

Penalties to come into effect on 29 June 2018

Section 17 of the Act has been amended to provide that the Regulation may prescribe a penalty, not exceeding 50 penalty units, for offences against the Regulation.

The Regulation has been amended to insert an offence for contraventions of the labelling requirements for certain goods at the border with a corresponding penalty. This is a strict liability offence. Currently, the monetary value of one penalty unit is AUD$210.

The offence and penalty will come into effect on 29 June 2018.

Goods requiring labelling

The following goods are prohibited from importation into Australia without a trade description applied:

Section 9 General goods

2Articles made from china, porcelain, earthenware or enamelled hollowware that are:
  • commonly used in connection with the serving of food; or
  • kitchenware or kitchen utensils
3Each of the following:
  • textile products
  • articles of apparel including shoes
4Each of the following:
  • electrical appliances
  • electrical apparatus or accessories, including electric incandescent lights
6Each of the following:
  • cigars
  • cigarettes
  • manufactured tobacco
  • cigarette papers
  • cigarette tubes
7Fertiliser, including a substance intended for fertilising soil, or commonly used to fertilise soil, other than:
  • animal or vegetable manure; or
  • crude material for the manufacture of fertiliser
8Portland cement
9Wall, hearth and floor tiles
10Sanitary and lavatory articles of earthenware, fireclay, vitreous china or similar substances or materials
11Goods that are imported as prepacked articles and are not covered by another item of a table in this Subdivision

Section 10 Goods at least half clad in certain materials

If more than half the outside area of the following goods consists of one of the following:

  • leather or a material resembling leather
  • fibre or a material resembling fibre
  • vulcanite or a material resembling vulcanite
  • plastic
1Attaché cases
3Bicycle saddles
5Brief cases
6Cases for musical instruments, radios or gramophones
7Document cases
8Folio cases
12Hat boxes or cases
13Horse collars
14Kit bags
16Machine belting
19Razor strops
22School cases
23Shopping bags
24Sporting goods, including boxing gloves, footballs, golf bags and punching bags and balls

You must meet additional rules in relation to trade descriptions of shoes. The material of which the sole, uppers and quarter linings are made is to be marked in letters not less than 2.5mm in height. The marking must be positioned in one of the following places:

  • on the waist of the outer sole of the shoe
  • on the inside of the upper above the waist of the shoe
  • on the heel seat or waist area of the sock lining or, if there is no sock lining, on the heel seat or waist area of the inner sole
  • on the tongue of the shoe.

Any person intending to import shoes should refer to section 20 of the Regulation for full details of the required markings.

Prepacked articles requiring labelling

A prepacked article means an article of goods that is packed in a way in which goods of that kind are commonly packed for sale.

For goods imported as prepacked articles, the trade description must be marked on:

  • the packaged in which the goods are packed; or
  • a label attached to the package.

Food requiring labelling

The Regulation aligns with the Australian Government’s broader country of origin labelling for food reforms and includes reference to the Country of Origin Labelling Information Standard 2016. The mandatory changes to food labelling will take effect on 1 July 2018. See Country of origin food labelling for more information on the Government’s new food labelling requirements.

Currently the following food and packages of food do not require a trade description. From 1 July 2018 this will change and the following food, and packages of food, must be imported with a trade description:

Section 13 Food

1Confectionery in novelty shapes, such as Easter eggs and Easter caskets
2Honey in the comb that is contained in the original frame

Section 14 Packages of food

1Packages of food more than 75 kg in weight or 150 L in capacity
2Packages of food:
  • of less than 9 articles of a kind that are ordinarily sold by number; and
  • that are made wholly or partly of a transparent material so that if the package is exposed for sale, the number of articles in the package is clear to a purchaser
3Sacks of agricultural produce that is food customarily sold by weight (such as wheat, maize, oats and potatoes), with weight more than 25 kg
4Packages of ice cream or other frozen confections less than 300 ml
5Packages of a single pie or pasty less than 250 g
6Packages of a single cake, sponge or pudding less than 125 g
7Packages of dried vegetables less than 15 g
8Packages of wines labelled before 1 November 1969
9Packages of alcoholic liquors in quantities of less than 75 ml or more than 10 L
10Packages of one or more articles of food of a kind that is ordinarily sold by number, if the number of those articles in the package is marked on:
  • the package; or
  • a label that is attached to the package
  • of articles of food (such as jelly crystals, blancmange powders, custard powders, junket tablets or junket powders), other than powdered milk or condensed milk; and
  • on which is set out a direction that the whole of the contents of the package, or each of a stated number of smaller packages in the package, is to be diluted to a stated weight or volume
12Packages of food (other than pepper or other spices, herbs, instant tea or dried vegetables) less than 25 g or 25 ml
13Packages of confectionery, nuts, popcorn, potato crisps or savouries that are:
  • packages of less than 85 g weight or, for chocolate moulded in slab, block or bar form with or without added matter, less than 30 g weight; or
  • packages of another article if the substantial value of the combined articles is represented by that other article
14Packages of dried fruit that are:
  • packages of less than 85 g weight; or
  • packages of another article if the substantial value of the combined articles is represented by that other article

If your goods do not comply with labelling requirements

Goods imported that do not comply with the Act or Regulation may be seized by the Australian Border Force. The Australian Border Force may permit the re-labelling of contravening goods where it is considered that the contravention was neither intentional nor reckless. However we recommend that you ensure your goods comply with the legislation prior to their importation or exportation.

A penalty, of up to 50 penalty units, may be imposed for non-compliance with the Regulation from 29 June 2018.

False trade descriptions

You cannot import and export goods that bear a false trade description. There are no exemptions. Although a trade description is not required on goods intended for export, if applied, it must not be false or misleading.

A false trade description can be any description of goods that is false or likely to mislead. This may include direct or indirect details of size, weight, quality, quantity, origin, manufacturer or ingredients. A trade description may also be false if information is omitted from the description and this misleads the consumer as to the true description of the goods.

Exported goods

There are no specific requirements to label goods for export however you must not export goods that bear a false trade description. You must ensure that any labelled goods intended for export are not false or misleading.

Although there are no specific requirements to label goods for export, the countries that you are exporting to may have labelling requirements.

More information


Contact us

Contact us for advice and assistance relating to labelling or trade description matters.