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What to do when a supplier can’t provide product certificates?

by Renaud Anjoran

As I wrote in How to Check Lab Test Certificates/Reports?, I guess that  10-30% of the certificates given by Chinese suppliers to their customers are fake.

A “fake” certificate is often a real certificate that was issued regularly by an accredited testing laboratory and that was later “photoshopped” to show another product and/or supplier name.

Another popular method is that of obtaining a “real” certificate that doesn’t correspond to actual tests (in other words, the result is always a “pass”). The most savvy Chinese suppliers know the exact price for this service.

So the question for the serious importer is: how to get a REAL & LEGITIMATE certificate, in case the supplier hasn’t already obtained it?

 If the supplier ACCEPTS to get it at their cost

An an importer, you are 100% responsible if the products are sold in your country and are found dangerous/illegal. So I advise to micro-manage this process if you have enough time:

  • Give your supplier a few names of testing labs you “strongly prefer”. Avoid local Chinese labs if possible.
  • Ask to see the application before it is sent by your supplier to the lab. Make sure you get the report directly, at the same time as your supplier. This way, if the tests are failed, you will know about it.

I realize that your relationship with the supplier might not be good enough to request what I suggest above. But it is certainly worth asking for!

If the supplier REFUSES to get it at their cost

I guess some purchasers who read this article will think “the factories I work with will never pay for it”. That’s very probable, unfortunately.

And, if they do pay for it, aren’t they including that cost in the product unit price?

For these reasons, some very sophisticated importers pay for certificates, and what they get in exchange is full control of the situation:

  • They get to work with the laboratory they want;
  • They receive reports and know when the result is failed;
  • The report is issued in their company’s name and the supplier doesn’t even get to see the report.

This last point is more important than it seems. it means the supplier can’t easily use the certificate to sell the same product to other customers.

Any other tips in this case?

+++++++++

Update: Some readers got confused about laboratory tests. Here is an important distinction:

- In pre-production, the manufacturer is supposed to pay for the certification of his product (in case it is subject to regulations such as Rohs, CE, etc.

- In production, the importer is supposed to pay and have samples from the batch to be tested (more details here). Suppliers often use good components for pre-production samples and cheap inputs for production. That’s a huge source of risk.


Renaud Anjoran has been managing his quality assurance agency (Sofeast Ltd) since 2006. In addition, a passion for improving the way people work has pushed him to launch a consultancy to improve factories and a web application to manage the purchasing process. He writes advice for importers on qualityinspection.org.

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