What requirements does my import product have to meet?
- Marcel Hoebink
- 17 May 2023
- 4 min
- Managing and growing
Products sold in the European Economic Area (EEA) must meet certain European product requirements with regard to safety, health, and the environment. The EEA consists of the EU, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.
Member states have their own legislation to implement these European requirements. You can use the European Commission's Access2Markets tool for information on applicable product requirements.
There is a European directive (2001/95/EC) for general product safety. This directive protects consumers and requires European producers and importers (of products from outside the EEA) to provide information on the safety and health risks of their products. In addition to the general product safety requirements, certain products and product groups are subject to European directives with specific product requirements on registration, composition, labelling, and packaging.
Many technical products and various consumer products sold in the EEA are required to bear CE Marking. CE Marking indicates that a product meets certain minimum safety, health, and environmental requirements. The requirements can be found in the CE directives. The CE directives apply to several product groups, including machines, toys (in Dutch), medical devices, and electrical/electronic equipment. In some cases, product groups have to comply with several directives. For high-risk products, the manufacturer must have the product inspected by an independent notified body.
The directives often describe the essential requirements that products must meet in general terms, while harmonised standards go into more detail. These standards have been approved by the European bodies for standardisation (CEN/CENELEC) and the European Commission and describe how a product, in a technical sense, can meet (one of) the essential requirements. Using standards when designing or manufacturing a product is usually not mandatory, but it does provide a 'presumption of conformity', which means the product is assumed to meet essential requirements. You can request standards from NEN, but they are not free.
If you import foodstuffs, you must comply with European food safety requirements, such as traceability of foodstuffs at all stages of production, processing, and distribution. This is necessary because foodstuffs can contain substances that are harmful to human health.
Additional requirements apply to certain foodstuffs. When importing animals or animal products, such as meat (in Dutch) and fishery products (in Dutch), you often have to meet with veterinary health requirements. You will also have to comply with health requirements when importing certain plants, vegetables, fruits (in Dutch), and plant products.
Requirements for labels
Labels are part of the product requirements. For example, there are rules for what you must state on labels. Think of the composition of a product, contact details of importers or manufacturers and how you use the product. The NVWA checks if labels are correct. Each product group has its own rules:
- Labeling of non-food products (in Dutch)
- Food labelling (in Dutch)
- Animal feed labelling (in Dutch)
REACH and CLP
REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) is a European regulation on the production of and trade in chemicals. When importing products such as chemicals, cans of paint, tubes of glue, clothing, batteries, car parts, or office supplies, you will have to deal with REACH.
Moreover, you will have also have to comply with provisions of the European CLP Regulation in addition to REACH. CLP stands for Classification, Labelling and Packaging. This is a European regulation that deals with the classification and labelling of chemicals.
We have outlined who is responsible for ensuring that products meet European safety, health, and environment requirements below:
- When importing products from an EEA country:
- the manufacturer producing the product in the EEA
- the importer in the EEA importing the product from a country outside the EEA
- the trader bringing a product manufactured in the EEA to the European market under a private label/its own brand name. In a legal sense, you are then seen as a manufacturer.
- When importing products from a country outside the EEA:
- the importer. In a legal sense, you are then seen as a manufacturer.
Most European legislation is laid down in directives, which EU member states transpose into national laws and legislation. In the Netherlands, many directives have been transposed into the Dutch Commodities Act. The Commodities Act and various Commodities Act Decrees contain rules that consumer products in the Netherlands must comply with, such as the rule that the mandatory label information on pre-packaged foods must be provided in Dutch, or the crib and play pen requirements with regard to the height of the side walls and the distance between the bars.
You can find information on product requirements in the EU (and in each member state) on the European Commission’s Access2Markets website.
- In the 'Country of Origin' field, select the country from which you are importing a product. In the 'Country of Destination' field, select the country in which you are importing the product (the Netherlands, for example).
- Fill in the 'Product name or HS code' field. A HS code (Harmonized System code) is a commodity code used by customs worldwide to classify products. Each product has a different HS Code. After entering the product name or HS code, click 'search'.
- Scroll down the list of commodities until you find a description that matches your product and the commodity code behind it.
- Click on the commodity code for your product.
- This will take you to the ‘Rates’ tab, where you can find the import duties for your product. For information on product requirements and import procedures, click on 'import regulations' in the overview on the left.
On Your Europe, you will find information on CE marking, textile labels, food labelling, and other product requirements, among others.
There is a European directive (85/374/EEC) that protects consumers from damage caused by defective products, including personal injury (damage caused by death or bodily injury) and property damage (damage to another consumer's product caused by the defective product). You can take out insurance against product liability risk. Discuss your options with an insurer.
- If you import products from an EEA country, product liability lies with the manufacturer who produced the product within the EEA. If the product was not manufactured in the EEA, the importer (within the EEA) who imported the product from a country outside the EEA bears product liability.
- If you import products from a country outside the EEA yourself or if you import products from an EEA country but sell them under your own brand - presenting yourself as the manufacturer - you bear product liability for the damage caused by a defect in the product. Legally speaking, you are considered a manufacturer in both cases. Be aware of exclusions or limitations of liability in the terms and conditions of or the contract with your supplier and try to avoid them at all times.