As an importer, product compliance is important to the success of each new product you develop.
You don’t want to ship products to your country, only to discover that they have unacceptable amounts of lead or that they’re not labeled properly and can’t be sold.
You should keep in mind that there is a difference between quality and compliance. You should also note that every country, as well as every state or province, has its own rules and regulations. These can be complex and difficult to sort through. So, keeping your products compliant is no small effort.
Today, let’s talk about what compliance actually means and how you can ensure that you are importing compliant products to your country.
What is Product Compliance?
Product compliance means that your product meets all regulatory requirements that apply to it.
Compliance management can be harder than it seems on the surface. Regulations in different countries, states, and provinces are constantly changing. Also, regulations vary based on the type of product you’re importing. This means you have to make sure you put serious effort into understanding which regulations apply to you.
5 Types of Regulatory Requirements to be Aware Of
There are some key types of regulatory requirements to be aware of. Let’s talk about what they are and how they come into play.
#1 Product-Specific Safety Standards
Different categories of products have specific standards that apply to them.
For example, there are standards for categories like children’s toys, apparel, furniture, rugs, etc. If your product is something new or novel, it may fall into more than one category.
In the US, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has a tool called the Regulatory Robot. This tool can help give you a general idea of the regulations that would apply to your product.
You should also consult with either a test lab or product compliance consultant. They can help ensure that you know all relevant regulations that apply to you.
#2 Substance Regulations
There are many standards relating to things like chemicals, lead, phthalates, and other substances that can impact health and safety. Unacceptable amounts of lead, in fact, is one of the most common product safety violations in the US.
Some important regulations you should be aware of are California Prop 65 in the US and REACH in Europe.
In the US, the CPSC monitors shipments at the border and will test products as they come in. It’s relatively easy to have your products tested at a lab before shipping. So, there is very little reason to ignore the possibility of having unsafe substances found in your products.
#3 Requirements for Documentation
Sometimes, you need to prepare certain compliance documents to ship with your products.
These are just declarations that your products comply with all relevant regulations in the country of importation.
In the European Union, a Declaration of Conformity serves this purpose. There is something similar in the United States, called a General Certificate of Conformity (GCC).
You should work in conjunction with your freight forwarder to include these documents with your shipment, if necessary.
#4 Requirements for Labeling
There are an exhausting number of labeling requirements that exist in the world.
Requirements vary based on the place you’re importing to, as well as your product type. For example, there are different labeling requirements for children’s products, apparel, games, etc.
It is important to reiterate that you should really consult with a test lab or consultant about these issues. They can help determine what type of labeling requirements will apply to your specific product.
Once you know what kind of labeling requirements your product has, you should be sure to include them in your quality inspection checklist.
#5 Requirements for Testing
For some product classifications, you will need to send your products to a lab to check for harmful substances. However, this is not the case most of the time.
Even if not required, lab tests can be a great idea. They help ensure the proper labeling of your product and its safety. They are also a good way to ensure that your product meets relevant substance requirements.
You need to be sure that your factory is handling incoming materials properly. But, you can never be 100% sure that they will or about the quality of their suppliers. So, voluntary lab testing helps give you extra assurance that your supply chain is healthy.
Voluntary Standards: What They are and Why You Should Care
So far, we’ve talked about regulatory compliance.
There are also voluntary standards in many industries, aimed at ensuring customer health and safety. One example would be window blind cord standards in the US.
Window blind cords can create a strangulation hazard for children. Every so often, a child gets a cord wrapped around their neck, leading to their death. So, the industry has adopted voluntary product standards to help prevent child deaths as much as possible.
It is important to be aware of any industry standards that might apply to your product, regardless of whether they are legally enforced.
Be Sure You Manage Product Compliance the Right Way
Remember that when you’re importing a product, there are any number of regulations that could apply to you.
These might be related to things like harmful substances, documentation, labeling, or testing. The type of regulations will vary depending on the specifics of your product and the country of importation. So, you should really talk to a product compliance expert or consultant to ensure compliance.
There are also voluntary standards which may apply to your product. You should make sure you’re aware of these as well.
Once you’re sure about the requirements for your product, you should conduct regular product inspections. These will help ensure that all labeling requirements are being met. They will also help ensure that when your products ship, they are as mistake-free as possible.
How to Prepare for Your Quality Inspection
Are you thinking of hiring a third-party inspection company? If so, you need to be properly prepared. No one knows your product better than you do. So, make sure you give your service provider the information they need to ensure that your inspections are a success.
Download this free guide to successfully preparing for your product inspections.
Great article Andy,
All your 5 Types of Regulatory Requirements are very importing when importing from China.
Especially Safety Standards. For any product, safety first.
To satisfy the safety standard, the supplier will have to do a lot of testing, and this will surely improve the quality.
Thanks for sharing this valuable info.
Thanks Sunny for the comments and agree 100% that safety and compliance with regulatory standards should be a first consideration when ordering and manufacturing goods.