The practice is not new, but in times of rampant inflation it became more evident on market shelves and complaints have multiplied on the internet. This is the old industry tactic of reducing packaging or package weight while product prices remain the same or even higher.
The strategy to circumvent the rise in prices has even earned the nickname, “reduction”. I.e, inflation due to weight reduction or product shrinkage.
“Although the practice is not illegal, the reduplication is something that must be done with many reservations. The consumer used to buy a product for the same price may end up not realizing that its quantity has been reduced” says Adriano Fonseca, lawyer at Proteste Consumers Association .
- Inflation reaches 12.13% in 12 months and affects 8 out of 10 products
- Cart emptied: g1 shows the drop in purchasing power of R$ 200 in 2 years
The practice has been observed in foods, treats and cleaning products from several manufacturers.
Among the examples, the Nesfit biscuit with oatmeal had a weight reduction of 20%; the Pettiz crunchy peanut has shrunk from 90g to 70g; the small pack of Toddy cookies had a reduction of 5%; Omo soap economical packaging decreased from 4kg to 3.8kg; and the Fiat Lux branded matchbox now comes with 200 units, 40 toothpicks less.
See examples below, what determines the legislation and what the brands say:
Nesfit biscuit with oatmeal had a weight reduction of 20%, going from 200g to 160g — Photo: g1
What the law says and how to protect yourself
Although the practice is not illegal, changes must meet certain criteria and manufacturers are required to inform the change on the front of the package, in letters of highlighted size and color. I.e, weight reduction signage needs to be done in a way that people can notice.
Ordinance No. 392, of September 29, 2021 of the Ministry of Justice, determines:
- inform on the label the amount on the package before and after the change;
- that the change needs to be informed in easy view locationwith characters in uppercase, bold, and in a contrasting color with the label background;
- inform the quantity of product reduced, in absolute and percentage terms;
- inform the change on the main part of the labelbeing prohibited to include them in hidden and difficult-to-see locations, such as sealing and twisting areas;
- that the information about the change must appear on the labels by the minimum term of 6 months.
If the packaging does not clearly provide information on the reduction or change, the consumer can report the company to consumer protection agencies, such as Procons, Senacon and the Ministry of Justice.
Procon-SP explains that manufacturers who fail to comply with the rules can be fined. “Consumers who purchase products in violation of this law are guaranteed the right to exchange them for another product of their free choice or obtain a refund of the amount paid in cash,” the agency said in a statement.
The National Consumer Secretariat (Senacon), an organ of the Ministry of Justice, reported that it has open procedures at the level of investigation, but without disclosing the names of the companies “under penalty of pre-judgment or damage to the company’s image”.
Senacon added that the current ordinance, published last year, brought some improvements to ensure that the consumer is alerted about reductions in the quantities of products.
“This practice was known as ‘product makeup’.in which the consumer who is generally loyal to a certain brand did not perceive the decrease in the quantity of products and carried out the purchase of the product without realizing such a decrease”, he said.
Among the strictest rules are the extension from 3 to 6 months of the mandatory communication deadline reduction in packaging labels and greater detail on labeling rules.
It is up to the consumer to report abuse and redouble attention at the time of purchase.
“The ideal is for the consumer to always be aware of the chosen products, especially those of recurring purchase. If it is made indiscriminately, without the proper information being presented in a way that the consumer can quickly identify it, reduflation may constitute an abusive practice , as well as a violation of information rights and principles of good faith”, explains Fonseca.
Small pack of Toddy cookie had a 5% reduction, — Photo: g1
The owner of the OMO brand informed that changes in the presentation of products are not a recurring practice. “Each segment in which the company operates follows its business strategy, which may involve changes that are punctual for specific products, always following the rules established by legislation and market trends,” she said.
The company said that all changes take place in compliance with legislation and that new packaging formats and sizes “aim to follow market trends, ensure adaptation to technological innovations or also standardize the weight of the brands’ products, in order to maintain its competitiveness”.
The company informed that it invests in initiatives that are premised on “consumer needs”. He said that “sometimes, we change or even increase the size options of our portfolio, aiming to adapt them to the characteristics and preferences of our consumers, always acting in full compliance with the applicable legislation”.
The company stated that it is “a punctual action and that the focus continues to be the launch of more options for consumers”, adding that the number of packaging formats of the brand increased from 300 to 400 this year.
The company informed that only the packaging of the brand “Fósforo Fiat Lux – Cozinha Forte” was reduced in quantity and that the change was widely publicized in mass-circulation communication vehicles. “This reduction occurred for technical reasons of the product, in addition to its adequacy to market standards and aiming at the sustainable consumption of natural resources”, he said, adding that the respective adjustment of the price was passed on to resellers.