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Summary of the decision in case 1130/2016/JAS concerning the joint statement made by the European Commission and the European Chemicals Agency on the conduct of animal tests for substances used in cosmetics

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  • Case: 1130/2016/JAS
    Opened on 03 Oct 2016 - Decision on 21 Jul 2017
  • Institution(s) concerned: European Commission

The case concerned a joint statement in October 2014 by the European Commission and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) clarifying their understanding of the relationship between the Cosmetics Regulation, which bans animal testing, and the REACH Regulation, which allows animal testing of chemicals in certain limited circumstances to assess risks to human health and to the environment.

The complainant, a UK-based animal rights NGO, wanted the Commission and ECHA to withdraw the joint statement. It argued that the joint statement is contrary to EU law and to the Cosmetics Regulation in particular. In support of this view, it referred to a judgment by the European Court of Justice, delivered after it had made its complaint to the Ombudsman, which deals with the interpretation of the Cosmetics Regulation’s animal testing ban. The complainant argued that the Commission and ECHA did not have the legal right to issue the joint statement. The complainant argued further that the joint statement would result in certain cosmetics being wrongly labelled as “free from animal testing”. The Commission and ECHA refused to withdraw the joint statement and the complainant turned to the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue. She finds that it is not necessary for her to take any view on the proper meaning of the Court judgment in order to resolve this case. This is because the joint statement is concerned only with how the REACH Regulation is interpreted and applied in the light of the Cosmetics Regulation. The joint statement does not purport to deal with the interpretation and application of the Cosmetics Regulation in the light of the REACH Regulation. The Ombudsman concludes, therefore, that the joint statement is not contrary to the Cosmetics Regulation or to EU law more generally.

Regarding the right of the Commission and ECHA to issue the joint statement, since they both have responsibility under the REACH Regulation, the Ombudsman finds that both the Commission and ECHA do have such a right. Finally, no clarifications of the joint statement are needed concerning the labelling of cosmetics as that issue falls under the Cosmetics Regulation, and not under the REACH Regulation.