Labelling requirements (commerce markings)

Certain goods must be correctly labelled with a trade description before they can be imported. Not all imported goods require labelling.

The Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act 1905 and the Commerce (Imports) Regulations 1940 (CI Regulations) set out which goods or classes of goods require labelling when being imported, what labelling is required and where the label must be applied.

Trade description markings

Trade description markings must follow certain standards in order to comply with the Act and CI Regulations.

The trade description markings must:

  • be in English
  • be in prominent and legible characters
  • be on the main label or brand attached to the goods, in a prominent position and in a way that is as permanent as practicable
  • include the name of the country where the goods were made or produced
  • include a true description of the goods.

'True description' is not defined in the legislation so is taken to be anything that is true and accurate about the goods.

Goods with a false trade description must not be imported or exported. A false trade description is one that is likely to mislead about key characteristics of the goods. Examples include the weight, origin, manufacturer, preparation and contents.

Goods that are imported and do not meet the requirements of the Act and/or the CI Regulations can be seized by the Australian Border Force.

Commencement of the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Regulation 2016

From 1 April 2017, the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Regulation 2016 (CTD Regulation) will commence. The CTD Regulation will replace the sunsetting CI Regulations.

The CTD Regulation retains most of the existing trade description requirements that apply to specified goods, and related matters. The CTD Regulation contains modifications to simplify expressions, and to remove redundant provisions. Some goods will no longer require a trade description (such as medicines and medicinal preparations) while others are no longer exempt from requiring a trade description (such as packages containing less than 15 grams of tobacco).

In addition, the CTD 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 not take effect until 1 July 2018. For more information on the Government’s new food labelling requirements, visit Country of origin food labelling.

More information regarding the CTD Regulation will be made available on this page prior to commencement.

More information

For more information, see the legislation about commerce marks.


Contact us

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