Consumer watchdog tests face masks to make sure they meet standards

CCPC issues guidelines for sale of barrier masks to consumers

Photograph: iStock

Photograph: iStock


Traders selling face masks are being warned that the State’s consumer protection watchdog is testing them to ensure they are up to standard.

Isolde Goggin, chair of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), said it is taking samples of masks currently on sale around the country.

The watchdog is examining the masks to make sure they are both safe and that businesses are not making any misleading claims about them.

“We’ve already been picking up samples of different types of masks and we will be moving on to testing those,” she said.

“We’ll be keeping an eye on this, both in terms of the consumer safety aspect and in terms of any misleading claims that people may be making for those products.”

The CCPC has issued new guidelines for companies selling face masks, which have become a focus as restrictions to slow the spread of Covid-19.

The Government announced on May 15th that people should wear cloth face coverings in places where it was difficult to practise social distancing to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 in the community.

The new guidelines will help businesses to place safe and compliant consumer face masks on the market, the CCPC said.

Mask types

There are three types of masks in use in Ireland: medical/surgical masks and personal protective equipment – both of which are in use in healthcare settings – and barrier masks.

“In recent weeks, the CCPC has received a large number of requests from importers and businesses querying what regulatory requirements apply to the various forms of masks currently in use,” said Ms Goggin. “In response we have produced guidance which explains the differences between the various mask types and the associated regulatory requirements within the CCPC’s remit. It is important that businesses understand that these products have fundamentally different intended purposes and are therefore regulated under different product safety regimes and agencies in Ireland.”

Producers of barrier masks must ensure their masks are safe and compliant before selling them to consumers, and they cannot be sold as either personal protective equipment or medical devices. The packaging, labelling and avertising cannot contain claims that they protect, or are intended to protect, the wearer from viruses such as Covid-19.

The masks should also be clearly marked as barrier masks, and should include information on safe use, correct fit, and how to clean them. The packaging and product information must feature a warning about not being suitable for children under three years.

“Different masks serve different functions and it is essential that products are safe and consumers are provided with accurate and complete information so that they can make an informed decision. Any manufacturer or importer of barrier masks should take heed of the guidance we have produced to ensure that their products do not pose a threat to consumers,” Ms Goggin said.

The CCPC has statutory powers to investigate and take enforcement action against companies that do not comply with legislation.