From NICNAS to AICIS – what you need to know 

 July 12, 2020

By  Jennifer - Skincare Business Foundations

As you may have heard, the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) was replaced by the Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme (AICIS) on 1 July 2020.

If you’re not sure what it means for you, I don’t blame you. I’ve only just rustled up the willpower to look at what the key changes are (and I’m a compliance nerd!).

I’ve put together this brief article of FAQs to help you understand what the changes mean to you.

Why the change?

You might be wondering – “Why has the Government made such a change? Apart from trying to make my life more difficult?

Well, it was part of a reform process to improve Australia’s industrial chemical regulations, and followed a whole lot of industry consultation about the proposed changes.

One of the main reasons is that the regulator (now AICIS) wanted to take more of a risk-based approach to the introduction (i.e. importing or manufacturing) of new chemicals. Lower-risk chemicals will now go through a more streamlined introduction process. The regulator says this will be an incentive for businesses to introduce greener and safer industrial chemicals to replace more hazardous chemicals that already exist. And it’ll allow AICIS to spend more time focussing on higher-risk chemicals to help keep consumers and the environment safe.

The new legislation also brings into effect the recent ban on the use of new animal testing data for ingredients used in cosmetics, which is excellent news!

What are the key changes?

Apart from the name of the regulator changing from NICNAS to AICIS, here are some other key changes to be aware of:

  • Legislation – the Industrial Chemicals Act 2019 replaces the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989.
  • Chemical Inventory – the Australian Inventory of Chemical Substances (AICS) has been replaced by the Australian Inventory of Industrial Chemicals (AIIC), generally referred to by the regulator as ‘the Inventory’.
  • Website – the NICNAS website has been archived and AICIS has a new website - https://industrialchemicals.gov.au.
  • Business Portal – the NICNAS Business Services Portal has been replaced by the AICIS Business Services Portal, with enhanced features, where you can register and renew your registration. If you’re already registered, your user login remains the same.
  • Registration costs – In terms of registration charges, there is a new 8-tier structure based on the value of the chemicals introduced (imported or manufactured) in the previous financial year. A fee still applies to all levels.
  • Process for new chemicals – there is a new introduction process for new industrial chemicals with 6 categories based on their risk level, from very low to high risk.
  • Animal testing data – data in support of an application for new industrial chemicals for cosmetics use only may not include animal testing data.

What does it mean for me?

If you’re in the cosmetics industry, but don’t:
a) make soap via saponification,
b) import finished cosmetic products, or
c) import ingredients for use in cosmetic products,
then you can stop reading here if you want, as the changes won’t affect you.

However, if you do any of the above in your business, here’s what it means for you.

Registration – if you were previously registered with NICNAS, your registration would have automatically transferred to AICIS on 1 July 2020. Your user registration ID is the same, and so is the annual registration period (ending 31 August).

Reporting – if you used to submit an annual report to NICNAS, you don’t need to complete one this year for AICIS – the first one will be due by 30 November 2021.

Keep reading for more changes based on your situation:

I am a soapmaker who makes soap via saponification

  • Good news for most soapers is that the annual cost of registration has decreased. If you made less than $50,000 worth of soap in the last financial year, you won’t need to pay a registration charge (see the AICIS website for guidance about how to calculate this figure and on registration charges for the other tiers).
  • You will still however be required to pay a $72 fee.
  • If you haven’t registered yet, and don’t plan to sell any soap before the new registration period starts in September, it could be worth holding off on registering until then to save $$ as there is no pro-rata registration.
  • You’ll still need to check that any ingredients you use are listed on the Inventory.

I import industrial chemicals [includes finished cosmetic products and most cosmetics ingredients]

  • See the AICIS website for details on the new registration fees and charges that will apply based on the value of industrial chemicals you import.
  • You’ll still need to check that any industrial chemicals you import are listed on the Inventory.
  • If you want to import an industrial chemical that is NOT in the Inventory, you’ll need to follow the new introduction process based on its risk level and introduction category (you can read more about this here).

Where can I find out more?

  • The AICIS website is full of information and resources about the new Scheme.
  • AICIS also offers free online educational videos you may like to watch.
  • If you’re still feeling overwhelmed about what AICIS is or how to comply, I’m planning to put together a more comprehensive user-friendly guide to AICIS. You can subscribe to my newsletter (plus get access to a free PDF guide) to stay tuned for updates.

I hope you’ve found this article useful – if so, let me know in the comments 😊


Pssst... Looking for other business and regulatory resources for soapmakers? Check out this post.


About the Author

Hi, I'm Jennifer - cosmetic regulatory consultant for Australian skincare brands. After running my own skincare business, and having a 10-year+ corporate background in risk management, auditing and compliance, I decided to combine my business know-how and industry knowledge to help others build a solid business foundation.
Since 2018, I've been supporting skincare brand owners with friendly expert advice and time-saving regulatory guides. And my signature course on how to start a skincare brand in Australia.

Jennifer - Skincare Business Foundations

  • Thank you. All the info on the site was a bit overwhelming. I still have further reading to do but you’ve made it less scary.

  • Hi Jennifer, you gave a great summary of the new regulations for soap manufacture in Australia. Are you aware of any specific requirements for the factory that makes the soaps i.e. does it need to be GMP or food grade etc.? I manufacture melt and pour soaps

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