Cotance, the assocation representing the European leather industry, is urging the European Commission to regulate the use of the term “leather.” The call comes after the Italian cabinet approved on May 28 a decree protecting it by banning the use of the word leather (pelle or cuoio in Italian) when applied to materials not deriving from animals.

Cotance said that the Italian decision ”hails this important regulatory achievement in one of the top priorities of Europe’s leather industry.” The association’s Austrian president, Andreas Kindermann, says he regrets that the European Union has not granted this protection to leather across all member states, while protecting the textile sector and dairy products.

Cotance estimates that ”deceptive commercial practices” to sell goods as leather cost European tanners €1.7 billion a year in lost revenues, or about 20 percent of the industry’s total.

Leather authenticity rules exist in Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Lithuania and Spain, and through industry standards in Germany and within CEN and ISO, as well as in other markets such as the U.S. and Brazil. But market fragmentation deprives consumers of effective protection, according to the Gustavo Gonzalez-Quijano, Cotance’s secretary general.

Cotance says that Italy is the first country to provide a national response to the absence of an EU solution, with Portugal and Hungary following shortly. 

“We would expect that the European Commission recognises the need to take action at EU level for saving on the multiplication of efforts at national level that can be witnessed today.” Kindermann adds, directly calling on Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner in charge of the internal market, to act.