What are these responsible person mandates all about?


If you are involved in importing or exporting cosmetics into Europe or the UK, you might have encountered the term “mandate.” What exactly is it?

Currently, there is no direct reference to “mandates” in the cosmetic regulations; however, it has been my observation that many practices that become regulatory requirements initially emerge as industry norms because they logically address certain needs. It is conceivable that mandates might eventually follow this path. Presently, if you are selling cosmetics in the EU or the UK, you must designate a legal entity within the region that assumes responsibility for the product. This legal entity is referred to as the “responsible person.” Despite its name, this entity does not need to be an individual but is typically a company. Moreover, this role should not be confused with the pharmaceutical industry’s Responsible Person or Qualified Person, as no formal qualifications or specific training are required to be a cosmetic responsible person. The main requirement is the capability to ensure compliance with cosmetic regulations.

If you do not have a local legal entity, you can establish an agreement with a local individual or company (usually the latter) to act as your representative. The regulations mandate that this agreement be formalized with a legally binding contract.

This process has been straightforward since its implementation in 2013 and has generally not posed significant difficulties. Theoretically, authorities could request to see the contract details between the two parties, although this situation is unlikely to present major issues. It is prudent to have such a relationship governed by a contract. However, parties might be reluctant to share their contractual details with external entities (I suspect this sensitivity might be particularly acute among supermarkets, who would likely prefer to keep their contractual arrangements confidential to avoid giving competitors an advantage). Consequently, some companies have begun issuing simple documents, signed by both parties, that verify the existence of a contract. One such document, termed a “mandate,” surfaced in 2022 between an importer and a supermarket. It consisted of a single straightforward page with the word “mandate” at the top.

Office setting features a large desk with a contract prominently displayed.The contract is labeled with the words Mandate and Responsible Person

The use of the term “mandate” is somewhat peculiar, as it typically implies a degree of control or authority. In this context, however, the mandate merely confirms the existence of a legal agreement. Combined with the potentially confusing term “responsible person,” there is a significant risk of misunderstanding. Essentially, the requirement is simple: a contract must be in place with your distributor, and a written mandate serves as a convenient method to demonstrate this relationship to interested third parties.

Late last year, a company contacted us after being requested to provide a mandate by UK trading standards, who apparently found it a useful tool to verify compliance with cosmetic regulations. While mandates are not legally required at this stage, they are increasingly being requested. We have learned that German authorities are also considering this approach, though it has not yet been implemented. If asked for a mandate, you could point out that it is not a legal requirement; however, producing one might be simpler than disputing the request. I predict that mandates may eventually become legally mandated, as this seems to be the direction such regulatory practices typically take.

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