Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Is salon insurance any guarantee of product safety or legality

Over time, I have noticed a number of NT in the UK commenting that BrandX is legal or safe because they were able to purchase salon insurance. This rather intrigued me, so this post is about some quick research that I did. 

I called the broker that supplies most nail salon insurance in the UK, to find out how our products could be accepted for insurance purposes. It appears from the information that I was given (and this assumes the person who gave this information was accurate); that there is no specific product registration or confirmation, and that they rely on the NT stating that they are qualified and using pro products. However, in the event of a claim, they have clauses in the insurance that can be used to avoid payment in the event that the information supplied was not accurate - by deliberate intention or accident.

In fact, it is difficult for any insurance company to do otherwise. Any company can create a SDS (was MSDS), and any company can register on the EU CPNP database and either submit fake documents, not actually register products or not register all products - i's very unlikely that anyone will check what is registered against the products on the webshop. Not all registrations or documents are checked. In the Uk, only Trading Standards and medical staff can look into the CPNP database and according to one TS office I spoke to some months ago, their budget has been slashed by 50% and they didn't have anyone there who knew about the EU cosmetic laws or CPNP. 

So being able to buy an insurance is no guarantee that the product is legal or safe. If a client sues, depending on the situation, the insurance company will probably allocate an investigator. It will then be up to the salon owner to prove "due diligence" - that they took adequate steps to ensure the product was legal and safe, that they are sufficiently educated and used the manufacturers recommended application technique together with their recommended UV lamp.

If for example, there are customer reviews on Amazon, blogs or Facebook claiming allergic reactions due to a specific brand, this would not be very helpful to the defence. Or if the importer/distributors company address was an apartment or house which contained more flammable products than permitted, or they had no experienced trained NT working in the company, or if the information on the product label did not follow the EU cosmetic laws, or if the documents submitted to CPNP were direct from a factory in China and these didn't include a toxicity assessment from a EU laboratory, or if they had never hired a lawyer, etc. It is also possible that what ingredients are stated on the label and SDS, are not the same as in the bottle (two inspections in Sweden and Germany in 2012, found a large number of discrepancies).

Although it is easy and relatively cheap to create a brand, buy products ready filled from factories with negligible minimum order value, put up a free website and print labels at home, this is the tip of the iceberg. Creating a brand where the company and products are legal, requires a much higher level of investment and business competence - for example, outside of the scope of someone who uses a free website builder, rather than paying £10,000 to £20,000 for a professional webshop. 

Understanding the EU cosmetic regulations takes someone who is used to dealing with complex documents or hiring a lawyer. Ensuring that the documents supplied by the factory, especially if located in China, means you need to check with the testing company who supplied those documents originally and ensure that they are genuine. If you are the first European importer or rebranding the product under a new name, a toxicity report will be needed from an EU laboratory and a Product Information File the contains the product formula and method of manufacture. Toxicity reports are expensive. Then to submit all this information, together with copies of all product labels on the CPNP database, requires someone with the ability and time to manage this process or significant financial resources to pay consultants to do this. 

So what to do
As you see this is a can of worms. So my first advice is to always ask the importer/distributor for a signed letter confirming that the products are registered with the EU Cosmetic Products Notification Portal and meet all requirements of the EC Directive 1223/2009. Then the NT should have adequate due diligence, assuming they applied the product correctly and used the recommended UV lamp...

My next advice is to ignore the flashy website and do some research on the company. Use Companies House to find out how long they have been trading and download their last financial accounts (if a Ltd company). Use Google Street View to see if they work out of a professional office or warehouse, or private house. Check their pedigree and experience - who are they, what is their history, are they qualified NT with years of experience and any national reputation? Do they continue to work in a salon part time, do they have a warehouse? What training do they offer if any at all? 

The experience together with the range and depth of the education, particularly if they offer classes in advanced skills, are the most important credentials. It's very time consuming and requires a lot of education to be able to create good education program complete with 100+ page foundation course manual. Plus, how can a company claim to offer good products, if their skills are not advanced enough to be able to judge the qualities of hundreds of different products available from all the factories?

Bob Giblett

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