By Renaud Anjoran
If you import products from another country, you should be aware of the regulations that apply to those products. Chances are, your country’s authorities will consider you as the manufacturer (since you have put that batch on the market) and will go after your company if they find some irregularities.
Large companies know this well and have systems in place to ensure they are (mostly) covered. The problem is, more and more SMEs import from China and other Asian countries, and most of them don’t know what regulatory standards apply to their products. The problem is even more acute when they buy across multiple categories (garments, toys, electrical products, furniture…).
1) An obvious way to identify relevant standards is to study the documents at the source. It is possible, with occasional help from consultants, but it takes a lot of time to understand where one stands and to keep updated when regulations change.
2) For many companies, the solution is to contact a Western testing laboratory and ask for a quotation based on the standards relevant to the product to test. There are two downsides here:
• They might not distinguish the COMPULSORY tests from the OPTIONAL tests.
• If you don’t give very regular work to a laboratory, you won’t have access to a employee with sufficient market understanding and technical knowledge to help you devise an optimized testing plan. That’s a big problem if you purchase many SKUs — you are leaving a lot of money on the table.
3) Over the past few years, ProductIP has been building a database of standards for importers in the European Union only. The feedback I got from small importers is that it is a step up from contacting a laboratory, but it does not cover all edge cases.
4) ChinaImportal just came up with their first two compliance guides, which contain advice related textile & garments.
Here is a presentation of their guides, in their words:
• Learn how to ensure compliance with mandatory product safety standards and substance regulations
• Graphical examples of mandatory labelling requirements
• Cost saving strategies, helping you save thousands of dollars in laboratory testing fees
I found these guides to be well researched and well organized. They explain the requirements in detail and give access to the sources (and whom to contact in case your product might be a special case). They are specifically written for the SME buying in China and they provide a lot of advice in that context.
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.