Manufacturers, importers and distributors have accused the Uganda National Bureau of Standards – UNBS of applying the laws selectively, which they say, promotes unfair competition in the economy.
This comes as UNBS prepares to launch enforcement of the new requirements for the sale and labeling of prepackaged dubbed, the Weights and Measures (sale and labeling of Goods) (Amendment) Rules, 2020.
A prepackaged product is any commodity that is made up as a unit or entity whose quantity has been pre-determined and indicated on its label prior to being offered for sale irrespective of whether such unit or entity is enclosed in a container, wrapped in any manner or unenclosed.
Prepackage Control covers metrological control requirements and labeling requirements for all goods packed in the absence of the consumer whose quantity has been pre-determined and declared on the label in constant quantities of mass, volume, linear measure, area and count.
For instance, while biscuits in a box are a pre-packaged product, steel bars are also pre-packaged though not in any covering, since they are already labeled for weight, thickness or even the brand, according to the UNBS.
The standards agency says it is increasingly necessary to have and enforce the standards, because of the changing consumer lifestyles, as well as marketing dynamics.
Labeling requirements include product name which should be well displayed, and parallel to the base on which the package is intended to rest, and be in prominent characters and against a contrasting background. Other requirements include; the physical location which should be specified by either: Village, Zone, Plot number, Street or Road; the Business name, where the producer should specify the registered name of the business responsible for manufacturing or packing the product; and also the expiry date, quantity, as well as the ingredients.
Instructions for use, must also be displayed where there is a high likelihood of injury arising from misuse.
Josephine Nakyeyune, a senior metrologist at UNBS says that soon there will be very few products that will require measuring and weighing at the point of sale or before a customer, hence the need to strengthen the standards to protect consumers.
The UNBS told stakeholder Wednesday, that they have less than a month to adjust their packaging to abide by the new rules. However, members of the business community were more concerned at the way the bureau was handling instruction and enforcement of standards, sometimes without taking into account their concerns.
Some say UNBS launches standards and does not give enough time to the companies to adjust, and this results in them dumping away their products because they will not be allowed onto the market.
Others cited what they call imbalance exhibited by UNBS where it allows some companies to package their products under certain measures and bars others from doing the same, which they say creates unfair business advantage.
Acting Deputy Executive Director, Paul Musimami said they will handle their grievance before the next review of the standards to ensure every party is satisfied.