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China has been the biggest export nation in the world in the past decades, but times have started to change.
As the purchasing power increase and the government have vast goals to boost local consumption, exporters have started to enter the Chinese market in great numbers.
It’s said that the 21st century is Asia’s century where China will lead the pack and further contribute to neighboring countries’ development thanks to economic spillover and investments.
With that said, China is also a comparably difficult market to enter as a foreign exporter. One of the most crucial aspects is to confirm what labeling and certification requirements your products have to meet prior to exportation.
You’ve probably heard about CE and FCC (in the US), these standards are the most comprehensive worldwide. Few people have heard about China’s equivalent, the CCC mark.
In this article, I explain everything you need to know about China’s own certification mark, the CCC-mark, which is needed for a vast number of products sold in China.
Topics covered in this article:
- What is the China Compulsory Certificate (CCC)?
- The CCC Certification Procedure
- Products that Require the CCC Mark
- What happens if my products don’t have the CCC mark?
- Exemption From the CCC mark
- Application & Fees for the CCC
What is the China Compulsory Certificate (CCC)?
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 a Chinese company with production in Shanghai, or from Spain with production in Valencia – A failure to use the CCC mark or correct HS codes can result in a situation where the Chinese customs seizes the goods, or in a worst-case scenario, sends it back.
Yet, 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 customs, end up in penalties and long and costly disputes.
To make sure that your products meet local regulations and will be accepted by the customs, it’s important that you seek help from a professional in order to get your products marked correctly.
The CCC Certification Procedure
Before you start a CCC certification process, it’s important that you get a general understanding of how it works and how long time will be needed.
In short, it takes roughly 3 to 5 months to complete the whole process, but it’s recommended to set aside more time as you don’t know if you’ll come across unexpected issues.
To give you a better overview of the process, I have included a general overview with the main steps below:
- You apply for CCC online and get a certification number
- Prepare your test products and other relevant documentation
- The samples are sent to China and product testing starts
- The Chinese certification authority sends Chinese personnel to your factory for an initial audit (usually takes 2 couple of days)
- Your application is accepted/rejected according to the results provided
- If accepted, you have to 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.
Potential Issues After You Have Received the CCC Mark
Even if you’re granted the CCC mark, exporters sometimes experience issues that are worth highlighting. Below, you can find some of the most common ones.
- Products fail during stick-tests in the market. You might end up in a situation where you need to withdraw a large number of products from the market (costing much money)
- 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 market experience)
- 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)
Indeed, some of these issues cannot even be predicted and exporters are, not rarely, caught off-guard. With that said, it’s important that you’re at least prepared that the above-mentioned issues, and others, can happen unexpectedly.
Products That Need the CCC Mark
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 that 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
As you can see, the CCC mark is similar to the CE mark we use in Europe. Why? Because it’s primarily used for electronics and heavy industry-products, but not for fashion, groceries, and supplements, for example.
Thus, many products sold cross-border won’t even need the mark.
But, it’s always good to be on the safe side. 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.
What happens if my products don’t have the CCC mark?
If your products don’t comply with Chinese quality standards (for example, if a CCC certificate is missing), you might face serious issues with Chinese customs.
As mentioned earlier, in the worst-case scenario, your goods can be seized or even demolished. It sometimes happens that exporters receive penalties on top of having their goods seized.
The customs sometimes detain 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:
- You can either provide the documents missing
- Contact a third party and request help. However, it’s always better to seek help, before the issues occur (!)
- Apply for a CIQ-declaration. This can also be done in advance
To communicate with the Chinese customs is not always an easy task, not talking about the clearance of the goods that’s been seized.
There are European and American firms that have local Chinese offices and offer specialized services, helping exporters to deal with issues that arise with 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:
- If the products are used for scientific purposes and product testing (prototypes)
- Products to be displayed at trade fairs (as these products are not used by end customers)
- Products that are used to build a production line (not often accepted nowadays)
- Products processed in China and, as part of a larger product, exported again
- Spare parts
- Small volume exemptions under specific pre-approved circumstances (but rare nowadays)
How can I apply for an exemption from using the CCC mark?
The application for an exemption is managed by the importer (i.e. your Chinese counterpart) 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.
Again, I always recommend you to work with a company that has the on-the-ground experience and personnel on-site and can help you in case any issues arise.
China is not the easiest market to navigate, a reason why large-sized brands with sound financials and connections oftentimes manage to enter the market, without facing competition from foreign SMEs.
CCC Exemption for Products With Small Volumes
Previously, exporters could get exemptions from using the CCC mark if their products were sold in comparatively small volumes (this was analyzed on a case-by-case basis).
The exemption was referred to as Low Volume Exemption (LVE), but with stricter import regulations, it’s rarely granted nowadays.
Application & Fees for the CCC mark
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. They can confirm the latest information on hand and communicate with the Chinese authorities.
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
What information should I 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 lab testing mandatory to get the CCC mark?
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.
With that said, there are a handful of international companies available that at least help with the application for and administration of your CCC-related testing.
For more information, feel free to send us an email, and then we will come back earliest possible.
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. Besides, market surveillance will be conducted by the Chinese authorities randomly.
Currently, the certification authority requires foreign exporters to extend the certificate minimum of 90 days of expiry.
The producer should submit the application for such extension and the CCC mark will, if the application is accepted, be extended for another five years.
Keep in mind that this is as important as when initially applying for the CCC mark as the authorities might cancel or suspend your certification if you fail to do so in time.
This will require that you re-do the certification which is both costly and time-consuming, and might result in lost sales.
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 be approved by the Chinese authorities.
CCC and HS codes
HS codes stand for Harmonized System codes and are used to classify commodities and products traded in China. I have written a complete guide about HS codes in China, which I highly recommend you to read as well.
These codes are not only used in China but worldwide. The reason why I’m bringing up the topic is that China has its own HS system, which 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).
Using the right HS codes is important and for the Chinese customs to be able to identify your product. It kinds of giving your products its identity.
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 number 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.
You should not take for granted that your products can be sold in China just because you have the CE mark. Sure, the conversion might be easier, but this should be discussed closely with your third-party test agency and the importer.
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 mentioned, the process takes at least 60 to 90 days. Even if you cannot participate from start, it’s always good to be present during parts of the certification at least.
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 markets) 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 requires 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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