This article – the first to discuss fragrance disclosure requirements for consumer products in Australia – argues that the current regulatory framework for ingredients disclosure for fragranced products is insufficient to protect the interests of consumers and allow them to make informed choices. In 1991, ingredient disclosure regulations were introduced in the cosmetics industry for the purpose of addressing a ‘market failure’, in which consumers were faced with insufficient information to avoid and mitigate various adverse reactions caused by the products they were using. Almost two decades on, the very same problems are continuing to occur.
This article begins by briefly outlining the scope of the research, motivated by studies indicating a link between fragranced consumer products and adverse effects for consumers and society at large. It then goes on to consider the regulatory structures in place mandating ingredients disclosure aimed at consumers in the context of specific products. In this regard, a wide conceptualisation of what constitutes regulation is adopted, and both legislative and industry-based initiatives are considered. After concluding that the existing frameworks provide little scope for consumers to protect themselves from potential harm, the article discusses various opportunities for legal reform. A range of regulatory responses could be considered for addressing the current market failure to prevent consumers experiencing adverse effects from fragranced consumer products. Conceptually, these opportunities can be broadly grouped into three categories – full ingredient disclosure, disclosure of ingredients meeting certain characteristics, and disclosure of fragrances. The article considers the efficacy of each approach in meeting the regulatory objective of preventing consumer harm, concluding that there are various opportunities to build on the existing frameworks, which should be given serious consideration by Australian regulators into the future.