Have you found the magical wooden, kitchen product that you know will be the hottest selling item on Amazon? The supplier looks legitimate. After all, his website boasts FDA-approved materials, high customer satisfaction ratings, and of course, unbelievable prices. Well, as the saying goes, if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is. As an Amazon Seller (or importer, in general), it is extremely important to do your research on a prospective product prior to placing your order. It is frightening enough to wire thousands of dollars to a foreign seller in hopes that you actually receive what you ordered. But navigating the US Import process, Customs laws, and other government regulations is another nightmare that many sellers face but can easily avoid. Most manufactured products can be shipped internationally without any issues. However, once the shipment arrives in the US, not having a Customs Broker in place or not knowing of any Import restrictions or requirements can not only be costly but extremely frustrating.
That amazing kitchen product you ordered that was “FDA-approved”? Well, any Customs Broker will tell you that the US FDA does not pre-approve any product or component unless it is a Drug or Medical Device which have special requirements in their own right. What about the USDA? Did you know your product is subject to USDA regulations as well due to the wood content? Once the shipment arrives to the US, not only does it need to clear through US Customs but it will need to clear through FDA and USDA as well. All three agencies will require not only the Supplier’s name and address but also the Manufacturer’s name and address if they are different parties. Quite often, a Supplier may refuse to provide the name and address of the actual Manufacturer for fear of losing business. If the Manufacturer’s information is not provided at the time of entry, the shipment may not clear Customs, FDA, USDA and in some cases, all three. FDA may detain the shipment until the information is provided and in the meantime, storage charges will be accruing at the port warehouse. USDA will require information about the wood and its origin as regulated under The Lacey Act of 1900 which prohibits trade in wildlife, fish, and plants that have been illegally taken, possessed, transported, or sold. If, after the allotted time, the agencies do not receive the requested information, they may issue a Refusal notice and the shipment will need to be Re-exported to the originating country or Destroyed – all at the Importer’s expense.
“What about all of those similar items already being sold on Amazon?”, you might ask. Many sellers do ship their products directly to the US – whether or not directly to FBA – by Air Express Courier. UPS alone transports tens of thousands of packages per day. Because everything and every person arriving into the US needs to be cleared through Customs, it would be impossible for any agency to review the paperwork for every shipment. These shipments are cleared as a batch under a special blanket regulation provided by Customs to Express Couriers due to the massive volume and many items may slip under the radar. But this doesn’t make it right or legal.
Don’t be one of those sellers. Hire a good, reputable Customs Broker who can provide you with valuable information about your product and will help to make the entire process as painless as possible. At Western Overseas, www.westernoverseas.com, their licensed Customs Brokers have hundreds of years of combined experience among them and have been helping importers navigate their way through the import process since 1976.
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