Like prices, the indication of quantities is a guarantee of transparency and clarity for consumers, who can therefore compare products more easily. Here is an overview of this regulation.
In 2014, the inspections carried out by cantonal supervisory agencies revealed that, in the wholesale sector, approximately 46% of businesses inspected were not respecting the principle of net weight. This measure is one of the main changes made by the new Quantity Ordinance (ODqua), which came into force on January 1, 2013.
The principle of net weight changes the principle of wholesaling. Now, if a consumer asks for 100 g of cut meat, the 6 g of paper used to wrap this meat must be deducted from the total. Previously, the item that contained a product in bulk (bag, paper, packaging) could be included in the calculation of the total weight. This practice was banned on January 1, 2014.
The rules are not the same for pre-packaged products and those sold in bulk. Pre-packaging is a collection of products not packed in front of the consumer and the quantity of which cannot be changed without the packaging being opened. A retailer who makes an assortment of breads and offers the whole assortment for sale is pre-packing goods. However, if they place one kind of bread in a bag in front of the consumer, this is a product sold in bulk/wholesale.
It is mandatory to indicate the quantity of products sold in the store (barring exceptions) and the following rules must be followed (taken from the SECO information leaflet for retailers entitled “Correct indication of quantities and prices”, available free of charge from its website).
- Units of measurement. Quantities must be measured according to the weight, volume, surface area, length or number of units. The net quantity is a critical factor. Units must be indicated according to the standards of the ordinance on units (kg, g, l, etc.) or as a number of items.
- Precision. The quantity must be declared precisely without approximation.
- The minimum quantity declared must be reached.
- The packaging must not mislead the consumer on quantity due to its size, presentation and wording, except in the case of technical requirements.
There are two types of pre-packaging:
- Pre-packaging for the same nominal quantity, that is, the quantity declared on the pre-packaging. Example: a gallon of milk.
- Pre-packaging for a variable nominal quantity, or random pre-packaging. Example: precut slices of ham in plastic packaging.
The method used to indicate quantity varies depending on the nature of the goods. The following must be mentioned:
- The nominal volume for liquid goods.
- The nominal weight for other goods.
In addition to the nominal quantity, the following must appear on pre-packaging:
- The specific description of the goods to which the declared quantity refers.
- The identity of the manufacturer or the importer.
Wording must be indelible, clearly visible and completely legible, without having to open or unfold the packaging. The font size depends on the quantity.
Pre-packaging for the same nominal quantity
Pre-packaging for the same nominal quantity must meet the following metrological requirements:
- The average value of the content should not be less than the declared quantity.
- The proportion of pre-packaging presenting a discrepancy higher than the authorized values (example: 4.5 g or ml for a quantity of 50 to 100 g or ml) should not exceed 2.5%
- No pre-packaging should present a discrepancy higher than twice the value fixed.
Pre-packaging for a variable nominal quantity
For random pre-packaging, the metrological requirements are as follows:
- The content should not present a discrepancy above a certain value (example: 2 g up to 500 g), and it is forbidden to take systematic advantage of discrepancies tolerated.
- The pre-packaging must be measured and labeled individually using an officially verified weight/price labeling device.
“E” mark of conformity
Swiss manufacturers whose pre-packaging respects the standards of the European Union (EU) can affix the “e” mark of conformity and export their products without having to be checked systematically in the country of destination (this is also the case for European pre-packaging bearing the mark of conformity imported into Switzerland). The “e” mark is used for pre-packaging for the same nominal quantity of a weight of 5 g to 10 kg or 5 ml to 10 l and which meet the requirements of Directives 76/211/EEC and 2007/45/EC.
In addition to the principle of net weight, products sold in bulk must satisfy the following requirements regarding the declaration of quantity:
- Precision. Goods weighed by the consumer or weighed in front of them must be weighed using verified instruments.
- Net quantity. The quantity of the goods must be measured without the packaging, with two exceptions: the weight of the bag (maximum of 2 g) of products weighed by the consumer can be added to the net weight along with the weight of the bag for confectionery, such as sweets or pralines which are packaged when sold wholesale.
- Sales by unit. Some goods can be sold by unit, such as bakery and cake products of a weight less than or equal to 150 g, some sausages or fruit such as exotic fruit or citrus fruit, herbs, and vegetables like cucumber, garlic or kohlrabi.
Some products have specific rules:
- Frozen products. The ice around a frozen product should not be included in the nominal quantity.
- Pre-packaging of goods declared according to drained weight. Goods packed in a liquid (pickles, for example) must feature a declaration of their drained weight in addition to the total nominal weight. For these products, the European “e” mark must refer to the total nominal quantity.
The Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology closely supervises the rules relating to declared quantity. The cantonal inspection offices are responsible for metrology, inspection of pre-packaging and wholesaling. Inspections are carried out once a year for manufacturers and importers of pre-packaging. The fine for any breach can be as much as CHF 20,000 (CHF 10,000 for negligence).