Yesterday I wrote about the danger of relying on Chinese manufacturers’ certificates. So, if you import products that are subject to regulatory standards in your country, what should you do?
First, you should look for a supplier that already works with other importers in your country. If possible, call a couple of reference customers (warning: it won’t be easy to get their contacts from your potential suppliers).
Second, you can contact a quality control firm to check what safety/regulatory standards are applicable to your importing project.
Third, you can ask your suppliers if they have certifications from a international lab. Then you can contact that lab, tell them the report number, and ask whether it is legitimate. It does not eliminate risks on your side, but it is better than nothing.
Fourth, you should tell your supplier from the beginning that you will run lab tests on their goods. Some of them will increase their prices, others will refuse your order. It is an easy screening method.
Fifth, you are strongly advised to take the process in your own hands and to follow these steps:
- Send an inspector to pick up some real production samples in a random manner, for on-site testing and/or for sending to a laboratory. It is important to use a testing lab of YOUR choice, that YOU will pay, and that sends all the results directly to YOU. Depending on the risks to avoid, this step can take place once the bulk materials/components are in the factory and/or when some totally finished products are off the lines.
- If the tests are failed, communicate with the lab to see if the goods are way beyond what can be tolerated, or if only an insignificant part of the test protocol triggered this general failure.
- If the tests are failed for a valid reason, your supplier should pay for re-picking random samples and for re-testing, and should follow the exact same procedure as the first testing round. This is a procedure that should be defined in advance, in a quality control plan.
Is this expensive? Yes it is, for small orders.
Is this too expensive for you to make enough margin? Then do not import directly.
Remember, if you import potentially unsafe products, you (as the importer) carry the same legal risks as if you were the manufacturer…