Russia boosts penalties for falsifying product barcodes

Russia has approved amendments to its criminal code to introduce liability for falsification of the barcodes on goods, with penalties including fines and imprisonment.

The Russian Bar Association notes that the bill to amend article 171.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian federation was developed "to fight the legalisation of illegal and dangerous goods, as well as non-payment of taxes and customs duties."

Russia's position is that counterfeiting barcodes allows criminal to render illegal and potentially hazardous products 'legal', and the new bill blocks a legal loophole in the statute by introducing liability for this crime. Previously, the use of counterfeit markings was not punishable in law.

Lawmakers say they will postpone the entry into force of the amendments by six months to allow players in the marketplace to adapt to the new legislation.

The update to the law – which introduces fines of up to 400,000 roubles and prison sentences of up to three years for the offense – comes as Russia is in the process of rolling out an ambitious new barcoding system for products across multiple categories.

By 2024, mandatory product labelling using the Chestny ZNAK system will apply to all consumer products. It currently covers medicines, tobacco products, shoes, fur coats, dairy products, perfumes and cologne, tires, cameras and flashlights, as well as some categories of light industrial goods.

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