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The Importers Guide to EN Standards: By Ferry Vermeulen

european standards

Understanding EN standards, or harmonised standards, is an integral part of ensuring compliance when selling products in the European Union. In this article, Ferry Vermeulen of INSTRKTIV explains what an EN standard is, and what you must know to make sure that your products are fully compliant.

1. What is an EN standard?

EN standards are standards that have been developed by a standardisation institute, mandated by the European Commission and are in order to comply with one or more mandatory essential requirements from a specific European directive.

Products that meet the requirements of harmonised standards [applicable in all EU member states] benefit from a presumption of conformity with the corresponding essential requirements.

Generally speaking, harmonised standards contain the following content:

Scope – Describes the field of application of the standard.

Normative reference – Lists the standards that have been used and which are essential for the correct application of the standard.

Terms and definitions – Describes used terms and definitions.

Requirements – Gives detailed requirements on how to meet the more general product requirements from the related directive.

Warnings, markings, and instructions – Describes how to properly instruct users about product risks and inform them about important product characteristics?

Test methods – Describes how to test if a product meets the requirements and how to document this for the technical file.

2. Where can I find EN standards online?

Whereas directives are mandatory and can be freely accessed via the website of the European Commission, standards are voluntary and need to be purchased.

You can find them for example via the ISO, IEC, DIN or BS website. Continue Reading →

EU VAT Registration for American and Asian Importers: A Complete Guide

Matthias Oldiges

Businesses in the US and Asia importing or selling products to the European Union must get their act together when it comes to Value Added Tax (VAT). Yet, understanding how to register and pay VAT, as a non-European company, is complicated.

As such, we decided to ask one of the Europes leading VAT experts, Dr. Matthias Oldiges – Managing Associate at KMLZ (Küffner, Maunz, Langer and Zugmaier) in Munich.

These topics are covered:

1. VAT when selling cross-border (B2C) to customers in the European Union as a non-EU company

2. VAT when importing into the European Union (i.e., Amazon FBA) as a non-EU company

3. VAT threshold in different EU states

4. How to get VAT registered as a non-EU company

5. How to pay VAT as a non-EU company

Matthias, how did you end up working for KMLZ?

You can know something about everything or know a lot about something. KMLZ decided on the latter and concentrated on VAT law, customs law and criminal law. I wrote my doctoral thesis on a VAT legal topic.

This ultimately led me to KMLZ, where I have now been working as a lawyer (Managing Associate) for almost six years. We advise our clients on VAT and customs law related matters within Europe, as well as worldwide.

Our strong network of experienced and leading VAT experts, in all Member States of the European Union and beyond, enables us to provide our clients with international advice at the highest levels. Continue Reading →

How to Start a US Company to Import & Sell on Amazon.com

John Gordon

It’s increasingly common that ecommerce companies in Europe and the Asia Pacific not only want to sell cross border to the US – but also sell within the country.

By incorporating in the United States, you can import and locally distribute products, for example via an Amazon fulfillment center (FBA) – even if you are based overseas.

In this article, John Gordon, founder of USA Corporate Services, explains what foreign ecommerce companies must know about the following:

  • LLC or Inc?
  • EIN Numbers
  • Incorporation fees
  • Required documentation
  • How to open a business bank account
  • Yearly maintenance costs
  • US taxes (and penalties) for non-resident foreigners

John, please introduce yourself and USA Corporate Services Inc

I’m John Gordon. I started the business now known as USA Corporate Services two years after graduating college. I was working in a low-paid job for a boss I didn’t get along with, and didn’t want to work for another boss ever again.

That was 35 years ago, and although it took several years to really get going, it’s a pleasure to still be here.

Twelve years ago I signed up for the Global Executive MBA program at Columbia Business School and London Business School. This was a very eye-opening experience that taught me more ways to give value to our customers.

Since that time, we have leveraged our knowledge and experience to focus on helping foreign firms and entrepreneurs set up businesses in the US. Continue Reading →

Patent Search When Importing Products from Asia: By John Goodhue

john goodhue patent lawyer

Picture that you’ve found an interesting product on Alibaba.com, or at the Canton Fair – only to find out the hard way that the product is actually infringing on an existing patent.

Given the potential consequences, you got to be sure before you order your next ODM product. However, it’s often hard to assess if a products design or function is protected by a patent, and to what extent.

Thus, we decided to ask an expert – John Goodhue, patent attorney at Goodhue, Coleman & Owens, P.C.

John, please introduce yourself and Goodhue, Coleman & Owens, P.C.

My name is John Goodhue, I am a patent attorney at Goodhue, Coleman & Owens, P.C. (“GCO”) in Clive, Iowa USA. GCO is an intellectual property boutique law firm helping clients protect their innovations and providing legal counsel to help avoid infringing the rights of others.

I also have purchased the Chinaimportal Starter Package myself and believe it has a wealth of information.

I also want to make clear that although I am providing valuable legal information, this should not be construed as legal advice.

Legal advice should only be provided to you by an appropriate attorney in the relevant jurisdiction after being apprised of the specific facts of your situation. Continue Reading →

Electrical Safety Standards For US Importers: By Joey Kwok of CMA Testing

electrical safety

Today, US ecommerce companies and Amazon sellers, import electronics directly from Chinese manufacturers – without even having a basic understanding of product safety requirements and liability.

Electronics are high risk products. Reports of unsafe lithium batteries and chargers are frequent.

A major reason for this is the lack of information on what US electronics importers must do to ensure compliance. Believe it or not, but for many electronic products, there are not even mandatory safety standards.

Hence, many believe that they don’t need to care about compliance when importing power banks, or any widget that comes with an AC adapter.

That is not the case.

If, or when, something goes wrong – you will be liable. If someone is injured, or if property is damaged, you might be looking at millions of dollars in losses. It’s game over.

Instead, Importers and Amazon sellers must rely on ‘voluntary standards’ from UL and ETL, that are ‘de facto’ mandatory. At least for anyone who want to sleep at night.

These things are complex, but absolutely essential.

Luckily, we have worked with Joey Kwok Deputy Manager of CMA Testing in Hong Kong, and a leading expert on US electronic product regulations.

Notice: Be sure to read this one at least two or three times, and feel free to ask questions in the comment section below.

Joey, please tell us a bit about what you do at CMA Testing in Hong Kong

CMA Testing, is a well-known third party assurance body with rapid global expansion, specializes in testing, inspection and certification services.

Our worldwide networks have been spreading out rapidly to Asia, Middle East, Europe and North America.

Our compliance services cover toys, consumer electronics and electrical products, textiles & garments, materials, chemicals, food & food contact articles, furniture, cosmetics, pharmaceutical products, environmental and more. Continue Reading →

How to Write a User Manual When Importing Products to the EU: By Tom van de Wiel

tom manualise

Product manuals, or user guides, are not just ‘nice to have’. At least if you are importing and selling in the European Union.

They are absolutely essential to many product categories, as product manuals are mandatory.

I am aware of several cases, when the customs authorities have seized shipments, simply because the product was not bundled with a manual.

So, we decided to ask an expert, Tom van de Wiel, CEO of Manualise.

In this interview, with one of Europe’s leading experts in this area, you will learn the following:

  • What kind of products require a manual?
  • In which cases is a product manual not required?
  • What information must be included in the manual?
  • What can happen if I don’t have a manual?

Continue Reading →

How to Improve the Supplier Response Rate on Alibaba.com

wayne-qulito

If you’ve ever tried to reach out to suppliers on Alibaba.com, you know how hard it can be to make them respond to your request for quotation.

That said, Alibaba suppliers often have good reasons for not responding to inquiries.

In this interview, Wayne Zhang explains what you can do to improve your Alibaba supplier response rate, which communication apps to use and much more.

Wayne, please tell us about yourself and how you got into sourcing

Oh my, unfortunately, I do not think this will be a type of an answer that packs in a lot of “Hollywood” like action, but just a plain simple reality. I used to work for a company that provided similar services to foreign clients from around the globe.

And, truth be told I worked there for a while, right after I graduated from University.

I studied commerce, and one of my foreign languages was English, so it seemed like a great idea at the time, and it was. My responsibilities included finding clients, going through their requests, find products at a price they requested, place an order and make sure the final shipment was sent out. So, I did everything from door to door, sort of speak.

I considered this to be a great start of my career because already back then I saw myself working in this industry for a long time because, in my opinion, it had potential.

I was right.

I learned a lot while working for my first company and it equipped me with a very valuable set of skills that eventually proved to be very advantageous in building my own business. I knew that I want to have my own company one day, so I worked hard, saved money and just went for it. Continue Reading →

OEM Electronics Production in Shenzhen: From BoM to Prototype

Paul

Shenzhen is the epicenter for electronic manufacturing. Here, you can find suppliers for everything from power banks to VR headsets.

The ecosystem is also very open. Even the smallest startup will find suppliers that are interested in working with them. Yet, understanding how to practically go from a Bill of Materials (BoM), to a finished product, is a lot more complex than it might first seem.

In this article, Paul W, the founder of Victure China, explains how startups can do exactly that.

Paul, please tell us a bit about yourself and the story behind Victure China

I’ve ‘been in the consumer electronics field since 2000. I have worked with major manufacturers such as OEM manufacturers Compaq and HP in quality control, project and sales management and international marketing.

I have helped develop digital cameras, card readers, smart phones, power banks and Bluetooth products. While in these positions I was fortunate to travel the world and interact with other cultures. This prompted me to branch out on my own in 2006 as Victure Inc.

For 2 years my business was flourishing, but the financial crisis of 2008 hit me hard. During the 2 years following 2008 I learned a lot about the good and bad of suppliers and manufacturers.

One experience that went bad was my trusting suppliers to give me the correct product. But no.

By missing an inspection this great customer now had become a hesitant customer, therefore resulting in lost business.

Don’t forget the financial crisis was just around the corner. To compound the problem suppliers would quote you one cost and the next day another.

How can an honest sourcing agent deal with these inaccuracies? There is only one way to fix this major problem, become a China supply chain company.

By starting my own supply chain business of sourcing I could avoid the past problems. With this experience I felt I could help international buyers who have had similar issues.

No more hoping manufacturers would get the product right. By offering buyers quality inspections and follow up throughout the process I could make sure the buyer gets what he actually wants.

In 2012 I hired my first employee, and developed my corporate philosophy of honesty, persistence, professionalism and innovation. This was not just a slogan, but a spirit embedded throughout my members and partners.

If you are up front and honest business will eventually come your way with hard work. With this type of business acumen I have experienced an 80% retention rate of my customers from beginning to end. Continue Reading →

How to Launch a Premium Leather Accessories Brand: By Helen Berg

Helen Berg

In manufacturing, you ‘get what you specify’. Even though ‘Made in China’ is generally not synonymous with the same quality as ‘Made in Italy’ or ‘Made in Japan, the country has an exceptional manufacturing base that, when utilized in the right way, can deliver consistently high quality products.

Helen Berg,  the founder Charleston Belt, explains how they manage everything from finding the right manufacturer – to getting the product specifications right.

In addition, Helen explains how they leverage multiple sales channels, including Amazon, Google Shopping and B2B sales, to get their product on the market.

Helen, please tell us a bit about yourself and what you did before starting your current business

Before starting Charleston Belt I was an executive in a company that provided data analytics services for healthcare claims. Over my career in “Corporate America” the majority of my former employers were large, multi-national corporations where I did extensive international travel and managed employees and contractors across Europe and Asia.

These experiences gave me exposure to global commerce, and the impact that the Internet-fueled digital transformation has had on global commerce. Some of the biggest impacts that I experienced were opportunities for small, entrepreneurial firms to participate in global commerce and the emergence of “micro-multinational” companies.

What made you choose importing leather accessories?

First, a bit about our product – our mission is to design and produce high quality accessories that capture the essence of outdoor living and the richness of our diverse cultural heritage. We are relentless in ensuring we produce quality, timeless styles that coordinate well with casual and dress fashions for men of all ages.

In addition to our own unique designs, we also produce custom products for specialty shops, country clubs, boating clubs etc.

We use a contract-manufacturing model for our product. Our design team does the creation internally, then we outsource the production.

We are based in the U.S., and actually looked extensively at U.S.-based firms in addition to companies outside the U.S. before making the decision to contract the majority of the work outside the U.S. The primary reasons were their ability to handle the entire process and the production cost.

To explain further, many of our products are hand-made. In particular, our needlepoint belts fall into this category. The firms we work with have hundreds of artisans and can produce the quantities we need in a relatively short time frame.

But a bigger advantage to us is their ability to vertically integrate the process, by doing all of the leather work as well.

The firms we evaluated in the U.S. could each do part of the process, but then we would need to ship the goods between the firms to complete the process. That would have extended the production time and the cost by a large margin.

So we developed a rigid supplier qualification process to find firms outside the U.S. that could perform the work to our high quality standards and also at a time frame and cost that met our needs. Continue Reading →

How to Launch Your First Custom Design Product on Kickstarter: By Ivelin Demirov

Kickstarter Journal

What do you do when you’ve spent months, or even years, developing a new product – only to see it fail? Ask Ivelin Demirov, a Bulgarian-Canadian Industrial Designer, with more than 240 (!) products launches under this belt.

And, he designed them all, including these:

  • Learn Javascript Visually Book
  • Enigmaze Secure Password Journal
  • Clever Kebab
  • Radiance Planner

Ivelin is one of our readers, and in this article, he explains his framework for finding the right product idea, and how you can test it out on Kickstarter – before spending too much time and money on a product concept that will not sit well with the marketplace.

Please tell us a bit about yourself and what you did before starting your current business

Ivelin DIn 2001 I was working as a graphic and web designer while doing my master’s degree in Industrial Design Engineering. I was very interested in marketing and online sales at the same time. It felt naturally to combine both worlds and my first product was born “10 fingers typing system”.

It did well enough to spark my interest in developing custom designed products and sell them through different channels.

16 years later, I designed, developed and manufactured over 240 products, successfully funded and delivered 9 Kickstarter projects and was an “American Dreams” guest on HSN TV.

How did you decide which products to launch?

Most of my early products failed because i was going after my gut feeling about the ideas i had. Some did okay. I wanted to know why some product sell well some don’t.

They were all brilliant to me. This first thing i learned is that I need to understand the market very well and the product should Solve a problem.

I came up with a S.E.X. formula which i use to this day.

Every product should: Solve a problem. Elevate status. eXcite.

The Solving a problem criteria is the most important but not always enough. If i had the 3 in a product that i was sourcing or developing, i had a winner.

Now, every time i go for a new product, I follow a passion of mine (guarantees that i know the market) and I check for my S.E.X. formula. Continue Reading →