Ukraine: New Ukrainian Language Law Is Already In Effect. New Language Regulations For Labelling Of Foreign Products, Foreign Software With User Interfaces, Websites, And Advertising

Last Updated: 31 July 2019
Article by Oleg Klymchuk and Alla Smorodyna

The new Law of Ukraine "On Ensuring the Functioning of Ukrainian as State Language" No. 2704-VIII ("New Language Law") entered into force on 16 July 2019 in spite of all pressure, claims, and objections. As expected, opponents lodged a petition with the Ukrainian Constitutional Court calling the New Language Law unconstitutional, but this does not prevent it from entering into effect.

In our previous legal alert dedicated to the issue and based on the bill ensuring the functioning of Ukrainian as state language No. 5670-д ("Bill"), we discussed what business could expect if the Bill was signed into law. But no official text of the New Language Law was available at that time. Below we provide an updated brief overview of the requirements for the use of Ukrainian in relation to software with user interfaces, websites, servicing consumers, labelling, packaging, and advertising based on the provisions of the now effective New Language Law.

As expected, the official text of the effective New Language Law differs from the text of the Bill in some areas, including regulation of transitional periods. Compared to the Bill, the New Language Law provides for a smoother and more balanced transition to new language regulations.

1. User interfaces, software, and websites

Most of the requirements stipulated by Article 27 of the New Language Law regarding user interfaces, software, and websites entered into force on 16 July 2019, in particular:

(i) software with user interface that is marketed in Ukraine shall have the user interface in Ukrainian and/or English or other official languages of the European Union (EU).

User interface shall mean displayed information with which a use directly interacts during the use of software or website and which (information) contains text of any human-to-human language (in particular, language of visual design of software, language of interaction, dialog, and transactions between user and software).

This requirement does not apply to programming languages (paragraph 1 of Article 27).

(ii) state and municipal authorities and state- or municipal-owned entities are permitted to use software with user interface in Ukrainian only. Before the Ukrainian version of an interface is prepared, it is permitted to use the interface in English (paragraph 3 of Article 27).

These requirements and exceptions also apply to state- and municipal-owned educational establishments as well as to public procurements in respect to software (paragraphs 4 and 5 of Article 27).

(iii) Mobile applications of state and municipal authorities, mass media registered in Ukraine, and those business entities which market their goods and/or services in Ukraine must have a Ukrainian version of the user interface (paragraph 7 of Article 27).

(iv) Special-purpose scientific, technical, medical and diagnostic, professional equipment including software which does not belong to the consumer goods category as well as special-purpose software that is intended to be used in the IT sphere only, does not need to have user interface in Ukrainian, provided that an interface in English is available (paragraph 8 of Article 27).

According to the Transitional Provisions stipulated by the New Language Law, the following regulations will enter into force in three years as of official publication of the New Language Law, i.e. on 16 July 2022 (the Bill previously stipulated a shorter (eighteen months) transitional period):

(i) software with user interface that is installed on products which are marketed in Ukraine shall have a user interface in Ukrainian. In terms of volume and contents, the Ukrainian version of the interface should not be reduced compared to the same version in other languages. Failure to ensure compliance with this requirement will ultimately result in classification of the relevant product as being of low quality (paragraph 2 of Article 27).

(ii) Internet offices, including websites and web-pages in social media, of mass media registered in Ukraine as well as those business entities which market their goods and/or services in Ukraine and are registered in Ukraine must be in Ukrainian. In addition to Ukrainian version available for Ukrainian user2s by default, it is permitted to have Internet offices in other languages. The Ukrainian version of the Internet office should not be reduced compared to versions of the same in other languages (paragraph 6 of Article 27).

Those foreign entities which market their goods and/or services in Ukraine and have subsidiaries, affiliated entities, and/or representative offices in Ukraine, must ensure that contents of the Ukrainian version of the website is sufficient for convenient user navigation and presenting the business activity of the owner of such Internet office. Such foreign entities mush also ensure the Ukrainian version is available for Ukrainian users by default. These requirements are applicable to websites only.

The foregoing requirements do not apply to Internet offices of some mass media.

2. Servicing consumers, labelling, and packaging

The below regulations on servicing consumers, labelling, and packaging will enter into force in eighteen months as of official publication of the New Language Law (i.e. on 16 January 2021), including general requirements that consumers in Ukraine shall be serviced in Ukrainian unless the consumer requests service personally in another language under paragraphs 1 and 3 of Article 30 of the New Language Law. Previously, it was expected that paragraphs 1 and 3 of Article 30 would enter into effect as of 16 July 2019.

More specifically, the following requirements for servicing consumers, labelling, and packaging are expected to enter into force on 16 January 2021:

(i) consumers in Ukraine shall be serviced in Ukrainian unless the consumer requests service personally in another language (paragraphs 1 and 3 of Article 30).

(ii) companies, institutions and organizations of all types of ownership, individuals registered as private entrepreneurs in Ukraine, and other business entities which service consumers and provide information about goods and/or services, including through online stores and online catalogues, must be in Ukrainian. Such information can be dubbed into other languages (paragraph 2 of Article 30).

(iii) e-commerce businessmen and entities registered in Ukraine must ensure the availability of information stipulated by E-Commerce Law, including subject matter of e-contract, in Ukrainian during their e-commerce activity as well as distribution of commercial electronic messages (paragraph 4 of Article 30).

(iv) producers (contractors, sellers) shall provide information about products, services, and work in Ukrainian. This information may also be dubbed into any other language (paragraphs 5 and 6 of Article 30).

The foregoing information in Ukrainian must be provided to consumers with procedure, in a manner and volume as set forth in Law of Ukraine "On Protection of Customers Rights" (paragraph 7 of Article 30). In case information about products and/or services is provided to consumers in several languages, the volume and contents of information in Ukrainian shall not be less informative than in other languages (paragraph 8 of Article 30).

Information about goods and/or services and/or work in Ukrainian may contain words, acronyms, abbreviations and marks in English and/or letters of Latin/Greece alphabet (paragraph 7 of Article 30).

3. Advertising

Article 32 of the New Language Law stipulates that Ukrainian shall be the language of advertising. This provision will enter into force in six months as of official publication of the New Language Law, i.e. on 16 January 2020.

As a general rule, advertising on TV and radio must also be in Ukrainian. However, as regarding advertising that is distributed by foreign TV and radio organizations as well as those TV and radio organizations that broadcast in one or several languages that have official status in the EU, it is permitted to distribute such advertising in official languages of the EU, but together with Ukrainian (paragraph 3 of Article 32).

Regarding printed media that is published in one of the official languages of the EU, it is permitted to place advertising in the language in which the printed media is published (paragraph 2 of Article 32).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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