One should make sure that their potential import product complies with the USA and Canada safety standards and labelling requirements prior to moving forward with the product. The same principles and requirements apply to the Australia, Europe and many other countries.
Various government agencies are involved in product compliance, which will be referred to by their abbreviation with links to their website.
This chapter handles the basics and is not an exhaustive list of all applicable regulations. If you have any uncertainty, you should get legal advice.
The Risks Involved
Importers have to deal with Customs rejecting their shipment, even regular ones who have been importing for ages. All is suffered because of product compliance breach. Often experienced or regular importers, get a surprise when Customs rejects their shipment because of a product compliance breach. Product compliance is the importers responsibility not the supplier’s or intermediaries’.
The main risks involved with Importing:
1) The products that you are importing, if not packed and labelled properly may damage property or injure people. The consequences if something like this occurs may be bankruptcy or even imprisonment.
2) Only a portion of all shipments are inspected by customs. If they see a problem with the products that they checked, they halt the shipment instantaneously. If that happens there’s no going back.
3) A product may be included in a CPSC recall. Platforms like Amazon have been turned up their performance by systematizing compliance document submission procedure and excluding sellers with non-compliant goods.
There is evidently more risk if one imports power banks than if they import tee shirts. Although, there are common requirements comprising both, and many other such products too.
Common Regulatory Requirements
You should gather as much information as possible about the goods you intend to import. Obtain descriptive literature, product composition information and, whenever possible, product samples. This information will be crucial when it comes time to determine the tariff classification of the goods you wish to import. The tariff clarification number will be used to determine the rate of duty that will be applied to your goods.
In most cases, you have to get your products tested from the lab that is accredited by Standard Council of Canada. For some products, like electronic products, it is mandatory to have a certification mark that shows compliance with all the regulations under Canadian Electrical Code.
Toy and Children’s Product Safety Standards
Children toys and other related products that are imported, sold, and advertised in Canada must be in compliance with the regulations under CCPSA Toys Regulations.
The Toy Regulations are specifically designed for children toy’s and addresses the associated hazards like mechanical properties (i.e., seams and parts), flammability and substances (i.e., lead and other heavy metals).
Under CCPSA, following products are prohibited to import and manufacture in Canada.
- Jequirity beans
- Certain lawn darts
- Certain kites and kite strings
- Certain teethers for babies.
In order to make sure the toy does not cause any mechanical hazards, there are two standard tests under Toy Regulation for importers:
- Drop Test
- Push/Pull test.
For toys that are designed for children under 3 years of age, the regulations require that it must not have a small digestible separable component to protect young children from ingesting small component.
Electronic Product Regulations
For importing electrical products to Canada, the products must be in compliance with the Canadian Electrical Code C22.1-02.
According to the code, all electronic products that are sold in Canada and connected to a source of power must be approved by a recognized certification agency in Canada.
Just like the electrical toys, all electronic products must have a certification mark that indicates that the product has been tested and meets all regulations under the Canadian Electrical Code.
It is the responsibility of importer or manufacturer to get the compliance certification mark from the certification body accredited by the Standard Council of Canada (SCC).
Don’t expect to find manufacturers with ‘ready made’ product certificates for Canada. Instead, you should do a background check to verify that the supplier can comply with EU or US safety standards.
Furniture and Fire Safety
Furniture and other textile products that are manufactured, imported and sold in Canada must meet the flammability requirements under the guidelines laid by Textile Flammability Regulations in Canada.
General Product Labelling Requirements
To make sure that pre-packaged consumer products contain meaningful and accurate labelling information, the Canadian government has approved Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act along with Textile Labelling Act.
It requires manufacturers, importers, and sellers to provide accurate information as labels on their pre-packaged consumer products that can help them take an informed decision.
The act prohibits importers and manufacturers to label any misleading information that can result in negative effects on human health and body.
The Textile Labelling Act has the same conditions applied to textile articles imported, manufactured and sold in Canada.
It must contain correct origin. For example, if it is manufactured in China, it must have “Made in China” printed. If your product has any issues with labelling, or if Health Canada finds any misleading information with labelling, they have the authority to recall all products.
Common Regulatory Requirements
Country of Origin Labels
The country of origin stamp, “Made in China”, is mandatory for most products (watches are a common exception) sold in the United States.
Apparel & Textiles
Textile and apparel products imported and sold in the United States must fulfil all mandatory OTEXA textiles labelling requirements:
• Fiber composition,
• Care instructions/symbols (must be ASTM symbols),
• English language
When you import garments from overseas, it’s critical that you provide your manufacturer with a digital label file, in .ai or .eps format.
Children’s Products (CPSIA)
Imported children’s product must comply with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). In essence, this means that the importer must:
• Confirm all applicable safety standards (ASTM F963),
• Submit a product sample for lab testing (only to a CPSIA accredited test lab),
• Issue a Children’s Products Certificate (CPC),
• Attach a permanent tracking label on each product and the packaging
Electronics products are regulated by the FCC’s standards on wireless communication. Some products must carry an FCC mark.
You should also check conformity with some voluntary electrical standards, such as those developed by UL or ETL.
Chemicals & Heavy Metals
At a federal level, the CPSC regulates some substances, such as formaldehyde in products made for children.
Some state-level regulations, such as California Proposition 65, also covers products not made for children.
All products that are in contact with food or beverages must comply with all mandatory food contact materials regulations. In particular, materials and articles that come into contact with food must not transfer substances, or otherwise affect smell or taste.
Product safety always starts on the drawing board. You must assess if your product, when used in any predictable way, is still safe for the consumer, even where no specific standards apply.
If your product does prove to be unsafe, the CPSC and other government agencies have the right to issue a recall. A recall means that you will have to contact your customers and get them to return the product. You will also have to refund them.
So, what does it actually mean to make a product compliant? For most products, it’s a lot simpler than you might think.
1. Technical compliance/Chemical regulations.
o Assess which of CPSC, ASTM, UL or other standards apply to your products, for instance, internet search for “ASTM standard for baby strollers”, or check out the regulations directly,
o Check whether the product design is compliant by purchasing an ASTM standard file(which lists technical requirements),
o Try to anticipate how the product could injure the consumer, even with improper use of the product,
o Confirm which chemical or heavy metal regulations in CA Prop 65 apply to your product.
o Specify with your supplier that your product must comply with certain standards, and have that included in the contract.
2. Labels. Create a label file in .ai or .eps format that you send to your supplier before production.
3. Documents. Buy CPC, GCC, test reports, and other templates, online (for example from ASTM). Complete them, print, sign, scan, and then store for at least 10 years.
4. Lab testing. Submit samples for testing to an accredited compliance testing company, to check that the product is truly compliant. The test report usually takes about a week, and you can use it as proof of compliance.