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HOW TO: Be Sure Suppliers Aren't Screwing You With Fake Certificates

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ljb7

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In this post I'm going to show you how to make sure your suppliers aren't taking advantage of you by sending you certificates that are fake or not pertinent to the specific product(s) you are enquiring about.

Before we get started, you'll need to understand why getting the necessary certificates is important. I'm going to be referring to the EU throughout but I'm sure the outcomes are very similar in the States.

Not getting the correct certificates can have a number of implications:
  • Customs may seize your product and can ask you to provide the necessary certification. Failure to provide the certificates means customs will keep your product. Even if the supplier has sent you certificates, they can still be inapplicable if they (1) Aren't testing the correct things, and (2) Don't relate to your product. As you can imagine, for large orders this can be a big disaster.
  • If you import electronics, let's say lightbulbs, for example, and somewhere down the line one of them causes a fire for one of your customers, and you can't provide the correct certificates, you are liable to fines and in serious cases even (albeit unlikely), imprisonment.
Remember, while the above is more unlikely than likely to happen, it's still good practice to make sure your certificates are real and applicable.

I'll now provide you with a CE certificate as an example and show you what to look out for.

Let's say I'm looking enquiring about a Rearview Mirror DVR.

Below is a CE certificate a company I'm talking to provide me with...

3367f3583d.png


Before you even begin your new validation process you'll need to make sure that they have provided the certificate(s) you have asked for. In this case, a CE certificate was requested.

Onto the validation process...

(1) Number one on the image above highlights the name of the company that tested these products. There are a lot of cheap inspection services in China that suppliers can just pay and they'll approve them. So first, we want to search their company name in Google and see what we can dig up. A quick search of 'Shenzhen Toby Technology Co., Ltd.' returns the following..

4d987a4c35.png


Both the websites in these top 3 results are related. I know this because when browsing www.toby86.com, if you click on the English version of the site you get redirected to en.tobylab.cn. Remember: companies in China can have multiple domains and names.

A screenshot from the English site version shows us some promising things.

59c14f39bb.png


As you can see, this site looks like it's had some effort put into it. From first glance I see 3 good things:
  1. Telephone number
  2. 'Certificate Search' page
  3. List of their qualifications
So I'd be happy with this testing service. You could always ring the number to make sure it works, or do some more digging, but you don't want to waste too much time. Moving on...

(2) Now we're onto Number 2 on our CE certificate.. The certificate number. Most good inspection services will have a certificate search function on their site. This is so you can search for the certificate and make sure it hasn't been edited in any way. So we'll take the certificate no. on our CE certificate which is: TB14099038 and we'll plug this along with the date of the certificate, into the site.. and Voila!
66e5df8f58.png


So now, I'm happy with the Inspection Service and also sure that the certificate hasn't been faked. Onto number 3.

(3) This is a simple one but I have made the mistake before. Make sure the applicant is the company you're talking to. They will try this sometimes. Remember though, they may be using another company name so be sure to check that out.

(4) Simple as well. Make sure the general product they're testing is the same as yours. This is not about the specific model, as we'll cover in the next point, but just the general product. I.e. Rearview Car Mirror DVR.

(5) Important. You can easily slip up on this bit. Make sure that the specific product(s) models you are enquiring about are listed in here.

Even if they are in the same general product category/niche, if the exact models you are after aren't listed in this bit, this certificate is not pertinent to you.

Note: Up to now, everything was looking good. Everything seemed to be in shape.

However, this next (and last part) is very important.

(6) What are they testing?

This is where you will have to do your own research. Test standards, just like actual certificates required, vary for different products, but also vary depending on where you live. For example, In the EU...

If a product is electrical it requires:
  • RoHS certification.
  • CE certification (directives below)
    • If the electrical input or output is between 50-1000V AC or 75-1500 DC it also requires CE certification under the LVD directive.
    • Most (but not all) will need to be tested under the EMC directive.
There will be other things in specific cases but above is just a primer. You may be thinking 'What the hell are directives? ahh this is so confusing', well yes you will need to do your own research, for laws in your own country and specifics. I found the blog on chinaimportal to be useful for the basics of this stuff.

Back to the certificate. It looks as if they have only tested under the EMC directive on this CE certificate.

I can't tell you if this is appropriate, or if they should have tested the LVD directive as well. My reason is that although it plugs in and charges from your car charger which wouldn't require LVD testing (because it's using less than 50V), it claims it can also be charged by 100-240V on the Alibaba listing. I don't know because I haven't got this product but I would probably say their CE certification is appropriate in my own (albeit unprofessional) opinion.


That concludes this post and I hope this has helped clear things up for you. Bare in mind that not every single products requires CE certification, or even any certificate at all. It'd be best for you to do your own research on that aspect, this post was just demonstrating how to validate a certificate so you don't make any costly mistakes. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them below and I'll try my best to help you out! :)

- Luke
 
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Digamma

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Good post. Yes, due diligence is extremely important.
One question, though. Aren't there professionals experts in these matters you can ask to consult? Like lawyers.
Because if you pay a professional to do these checks you should a) be safer having an expert care of those things and b) probably covered on the legal responsibility side. Then again, the example you made seems like a simple enough task, but knowing bureaucracy I expect could get really ugly.
 

integrity

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Great post!

Thanks for the info. I'm bookmarking this.
 

ljb7

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@MarshallDigamma Yes that is true you are able to conduct your own inspections but I would only suggest that if you're really serious about a product.

If you're going through 10's and 10's of suppliers and you aren't able to consult someone, this is a good way to weed out the ones you don't want to be dealing with.

@integrity Thank you :) Glad it helps.
 

Michal II

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I'm starting my first e-commerce business selling diet pills in Poland: www.szczupla-sylwetka.com, I found good supplier in UK, they sell their products through Amazon and their web page and seem legit but when I asked for certificates they refused to send them and wrote this:

"We do not advise neither to we insure you if customers become sick from this product.
We have our own insurance, every distributor should have their own product liability.
If there was an incident when a customer sues you for the contents/ingredients in the products, we hold full responsibility for the ingredients we carry."

Can I sell their products and not worry about problems with law?


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ljb7

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I'm starting my first e-commerce business selling diet pills in Poland: www.szczupla-sylwetka.com, I found good supplier in UK, they sell their products through Amazon and their web page and seem legit but when I asked for certificates they refused to send them and wrote this:

"We do not advise neither to we insure you if customers become sick from this product.
We have our own insurance, every distributor should have their own product liability.
If there was an incident when a customer sues you for the contents/ingredients in the products, we hold full responsibility for the ingredients we carry."

Can I sell their products and not worry about problems with law?


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No I would not be comfortable selling their products if they aren't able to provide you with the necessary certification. As to what that is, I can't tell you, but...

I would advise ditching this supplier. Then, I'd seek out professional advise from a commercial lawyer as to what it is that you require exactly.

Dealing with supplements is fine, but I'd definitely do due diligence to make sure I am not liable for anything that could potentially happen. Unfortunately, I don't have experience in supplements so I can't give you specific advice, but I'd definitely recommend seeking professional advice before you even get started.

 

tafy

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"We do not advise neither to we insure you if customers become sick from this product.

Wow uk supplier with bad grammar?

I think they are talking about insurance, and they are correct that you need your own insurance.

Be specific in what certification you want from them
 

Michal II

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Thanks for advices I will find lawyer to help so I won't get into troubles, it sucks a little because I already ordered 30 items to sell ;) I will think about some less edgy niche for my next store


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G

GuestUser112

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If their insurance is responsible for the contents/ingredients than I would guess that you need to refrain from selling them past their shelf life and probably include a warning label on the packaging @Michal II
 
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ljb7

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If their insurance is responsible for the contents/ingredients than I would guess that you need to refrain from selling them past their shelf life and probably include a warning label on the packaging @Michal II

+ his own liability insurance :)
 

Camo & Gold

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Question:
Suppose when I attempted step #1 all I saw were listings by this company on websites such as Alibaba, Tradekey, ect.. but no actual website? Is this a red flag? They are gold members and the general information (peoples names, products) are all related. I have their certificates and everything but nowhere to compare them to.
 

ljb7

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Question:
Suppose when I attempted step #1 all I saw were listings by this company on websites such as Alibaba, Tradekey, ect.. but no actual website? Is this a red flag? They are gold members and the general information (peoples names, products) are all related. I have their certificates and everything but nowhere to compare them to.
They could be legit, it'd be too early to write them off. Maybe they are a new company?

Have you got their certificates? Have you followed the other steps to validate the certificates?

Also, what information can you find on this company via there trade site profiles? Assessed suppliers? Etc etc.

They could be absolutely fine to be dealing with. I'd go ahead and dig a little deeper.


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Walter Hay

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@ ljb7 Hi Luke,

When I saw the statement by Toby Technology saying: "Shenzhen ToBy technology Co.,Ltd was approved by the approval of the department of industry and commerce" it made my suspicious mind wonder were they really approved.

What made me question the statement is that the only approvals given by that department are for "Labor Service Companies".

Instead I contacted the China National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment and they have now confirmed that Shenzhen ToBy technology Co.,Ltd has been accredited by that service. This means that you definitely can rely on certifications provided by Toby, provided you follow the other steps you have outlined in your very helpful post.
 
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ljb7

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@ ljb7 Hi Luke,

When I saw the statement by Toby Technology saying: "Shenzhen ToBy technology Co.,Ltd was approved by the approval of the department of industry and commerce" it made my suspicious mind wonder were they really approved.

What made me question the statement is that the only approvals given by that department are for "Labor Service Companies".

Instead I contacted the China National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment and they have now confirmed that Shenzhen ToBy technology Co.,Ltd has been accredited by that service. This means that you definitely can rely on certifications provided by Toby, provided you follow the other steps you have outlined in your very helpful post.

Thanks for that Walter. Will definitely consider them for future use because of their competitive pricing.
 
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Michal II

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Just want to mention if someone is interested in regard to selling supplements - I ordered expertise from law firm and what I have to do is inform correct office in my country that I want to sell new supplement (by new I mean new brand) and if they will accept it then I'm ok to sell.
Diet pills that I want to seel are based on natural stuff like green coffe etc. so I think I won't have problems to get approval
 

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