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China has been the major exporter the past years, but times are changing. Nowadays, it’s becoming increasingly popular to export commodities to the Chinese market.
However; as an exporter, you should beware that different product regulations apply in China. And certification requirement is one of the most critical items to confirm prior to exportation.
You’ve probably heard about CE and FCC (in the US), these standards are the most comprehensive worldwide. Less people have heard about China’s equivalent.
In this article, I explain everything you need to know about China’s own certification mark, the CCC-mark, that complies to a majority of products sold in China.
What is CCC? (China Compulsory Certificate)
Since 2002, CCC has been the mandatory certification mark for a wide range of products on the Chinese market.
It doesn’t matter if you are Chinese and have your production in Shanghai, or Spanish and have your production in Valencia – A failure to use the CCC mark or correct HS codes can lead to seized goods by the Chinese customs.
But it can take some time for the customs to discover the error, it’s not always spotted from the first delivery. Though it’s risky and can, if recognized by the Chinese customs, end up in penalties and long and costly disputes.
Therefore, it’s important that you seek help from a professional in order to get your products marked correctly.
CCC certification procedure
Before you start a CCC certification, it’s important that you understand the process and how long time that will be needed.
It takes roughly 3-5 months to complete the whole process, but be prepared to wait even longer.
The CCC procedure is normally as follows:
a. You apply for CCC online and get a certification number
b. Prepare test products and other documentation
c. Samples are sent to China and product testing starts
d. The Chinese certification authority sends Chinese personnel to your factory for an initial audit (usually takes 2 couple of days)
e. Your application is accepted/rejected
f. Order CCC stickers or get a permit to mark your products directly with the CCC mark
The process doesn’t end here though and you’ll need to maintain your CCC certificate continuously.
Some of the issues exporters can face, after they’ve been granted the CCC mark, are:
a. Products fail during stick-test in the market. You might end up in a situation where you need to withdraw a large of amount of products from the market (costing much money)
b. The Chinese customs reject the products due to unclear reasons (it’s not easy to communicate or resolve issues with the customs if you’re not a Chinese speaker or have previous experience)
c. You have problems to pass follow-up inspections (factory inspections are made on a yearly basis, being granted the CCC mark also means you need to work actively to keep it)
So, I assume we can both agree that:
It’s very important to work with a reputable company that can help you to receive the CCC mark and minimize the risks to get problems later.
Product categories that require CCC
The CCC-mark is required for over a hundred of products. To obtain more information about the different categories, you can visit CNCA’s website to find products that require CCC.
(CNCA is an abbreviation for the Certification and Accreditation Administration of China, the agency who administers the CCC mark).
Below I’ve included the 21 product categories that need the CCC certification:
- Electrical wires and cables
- Switches for circuits, Installation protective and connection devices
- Low-voltage Electrical Apparatus
- Small Power motors
- Electric tools
- Welding machines
- Household and similar electrical appliances
- Audio and video apparatus
- Information technology equipment
- Lighting apparatus
- Telecommunication terminal equipment
- Motor vehicles and Safety parts
- Motor vehicle tires
- Safety Glasses
- Agricultural Machinery
- Latex Products
- Medical Devices.
- Fire Fighting Equipment
- Detectors for Intruder Alarm Systems
- Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) systems
If you want to assure whether your products need to be marked with the CCC, I recommend you to contact a reputable agent that works with CCC.
Complications if a CCC-certificate is missing
If your products don’t comply with Chinese quality standards (for example, if a CCC certificate is missing), you might face serious issues with the Chinese customs.
In the worst case, your goods can be seized or demolished. It sometimes happens that exporters receive penalties on top of having their goods seized.
And it doesn’t stop here:
The customs sometimes detains goods and states that a CCC-certificate is needed for products, that are not obliged to carry the CCC-mark (!).
It’s not hard to imagine the frustration these business owners feel.
If your goods get seized by the customs, you can proceed in the 3 following ways:
a. You can either provide the documents missing
b. Contact a third party and request help. However, it’s always better to seek help, before the issues occur (!)
c. Apply for a CIQ-declaration
If you have the experience and confidence to export commodities to China yourself, then go for it.
But to communicate with the Chinese customs is not always an easy task, not talking about clearance of the goods that’s been seized.
There are European and American firms that have local Chinese offices and offer specific services, helping exporters to deal with the Chinese customs.
Exemption from the CCC-mark
Foreigners can sometimes avoid using the CCC mark, as there are regulations stating that exemptions can be made from using the mark.
However, the application process takes time and is not always granted.
An exemption can be made under the following conditions:
a. If the products are used for scientific purposes and product testing (prototypes)
b. Products to be displayed at trade fairs (as these products are not used by end customers)
c. Products that are used to build a production line (not often accepted nowadays)
d. Products processed in China and, as part of a larger product, exported again
e. Spare parts
f. Small volume exemptions under specific pre-approved circumstances (but rare nowadays)
How can I apply for an exemption?
The application for an exemption is managed by the importer and submitted to the local CIQ office directly. CIQ will also provide you (or your agent) a CIQ declaration, which proves that no CCC marking is required.
Keep in mind that your products might get stopped by the customs, even if you have an exemption allowing you not to use the CCC.
Having your products stopped, or seized by the customs, can be very cost some as your products can’t reach your customers, you face fines and need to pay for the transportation back home.
Again, I always recommend you to work with a company that has on-the-ground experience and personnel on-site and can help you in case any issues arise.
CCC exemption for products with small volumes
Previously, exporters could get exemptions from using the CCC mark for small volumes.
It was called LVE (Low Volume Exemption), but with stricter import regulations, it’s rarely granted nowadays.
Application and fees
Before applying for CCC, it’s important that you prepare all relevant documents in advance.
As the requirements can differ between products, I recommend that you first contact an agent to consult you.
Some of the documents you need to provide are, for example:
- A schematic overview of the production (of your product)
- A quality manual
- Quick start guide (see below for more detailed explanation)
- Copy of CB reports (if applied to your products)
- Business license
- Name plate/label in Chinese
- Organization chart of the factory
- EMC (Electromagnetic Compatibility) test results
Information to include in the quick start guide
- The name of your product
- Information regarding how the product is used/installed
- The model number
- Operating instructions
- Warnings of usage
- Information regarding the circuit, voltage and currents
Again: confirm with your agent to assure that you fulfill the requirements set by the authorities.
Is CCC lab testing mandatory?
Yes, lab testing is mandatory and can only be done in China.
You’ll not be granted a CCC mark in case you do the lab testing through a 3rd party in Europe or the US for example.
For how long will the CCC mark be valid?
The CCC certificate is valid for 5 years.
However, you’ll also be subject to annual follow-up factory inspections, in addition, market surveillance will be conducted by the Chinese authorities randomly.
CCC Application form
Indeed, it’s not easy to find the CCC application form online. And the application forms differ depending on what product you want to export.
As mentioned, I recommend that you consult with your agent which form to use, you can also find different CCC application forms on this website.
As regulations change over time, make sure that you get the latest version that will approved by the Chinese authorities.
CCC HS codes
HS codes stands for Harmonized System codes and are used to classify commodities and products traded in China.
In fact, HS codes are not only used in China, but worldwide. The reason why I’m bringing up the topic here is because China has its own HS system, that you should be aware of, before exporting.
The system starts with a number of categories (for example, related to agriculture or mechanical products). Then the head categories are broken down into sub-categories.
Food can be divided into frozen food or room tempered food, liquor can be separated into spirits or medicated liquors (just mentioning a few).
You should know that: using the right HS codes is important.
A failure to use the correct HS-codes can result in wrongly paid tariffs, and you might end up with penalties and fees to be paid to the customs.
It’s well-known that foreigners face issues when managing the HS codes, therefore, I recommend you to contact a credible agent to seek help, before you start exporting.
Can I get a CCC mark if I have a CE mark?
Even if CE is considered to be the most comprehensive certificate, you can’t get a CCC by simply having a CE mark.
There is a common safety agreement between developed countries, called CB (from the words Certification Bodies). It allows people to use a single certification to get market access, worldwide (without the necessity to deal with a large amount of certificates).
However, you’re still obliged to do yearly factory inspections, local EMC tests in China (Electromagnetic Compatibility tests), also, major product parts/sub components might need separate CCC certification.
Do I need to be in China during the CCC certification process?
You don’t need to be in China during the certification process, but it’s advisable. Or if you can let someone else do a trip on your behalf.
You can save both time and money by letting a person go to China, supporting discussions, taking notes and help during the test procedure.
As an exporter, it’s important that you understand the local regulations and quality standards, before exporting overseas. This is especially true in countries like China, where people speak limited English and where foreigners face much bureaucracy.
Making too many mistakes might lead to your goods being seized, or that you need to pay heavy penalties.
Speaking the truth, investors who want access to untapped markets (or in China’s case, fairly untapped market) need to put in more work, cautiousness and time, before reaping the yields.
If you export electronics to China for example, you need to mark your products with the country’s own quality certificate mark, called CCC. Getting the mark takes time and require that you hire a credible agent, if you don’t have sufficient experience of trading in China.
The process to get the mark takes months and will require that you allow Chinese personnel entering your factory, doing an initial inspection, followed by annual inspections.
You’ll also need to send samples for product testing to a certified lab in China and get approval to use the CCC mark, before marking it to your products.
To understand the complete process, I recommend you to read this complete guide. I also recommend you to read my separate article that explains how much it cost to get the CCC certificate.
How can you help me take the next step?
Do you need help with CCC, CIQ or setting up your first Tmall store? We work with leading consultants and service providers – that can help you through every part of the process:
a. CIQ, CCC, labeling and laboratory testing
b. Shipping and customs
c. Selling on Tmall, JD Worldwide & other platforms
d. Finding retailers and distributors for your products
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