Here we provide you with some information about the import regulations in Germany.
As a supporter of the open markets, Germany set the direct market regulations only for a small segment of goods including several agricultural products, textiles, steel products from few third countries, medicine, weapons and scarce species of plants and animals for which the import license is required, noticeable by those who aim for doing business in Germany.
As the legal environment and administrative procedures of the business transactions in Germany may be different from those in place in the importers’ homeland, traders are also required to remain informed and updated about the product related regulations active on the German market.
Here we aim to provide the reader with the general overview of these regulations.
The packaging of goods which are going to be imported in Germany shall also fulfill specific legal requirements in order to observe consumer safety and the environment protection. Due to the importance of consumer protection and information in Germany, there are specific regulations on product labeling especially on food products, textiles, electrical and electronic equipment, and dangerous substances. These regulations apply to the most countries in the European economic zone.
Since 1990, have been obliged to take back or recycle packaging waste. Normally, it depends on whether the packaged products are sold to consumer or businesses and on whether the ownership of the goods is transferred in Germany or abroad. In the second case, big importers are required to inform authorities about the completeness of their packaging take-back which is called completeness statement (Vollständigkeitserklärung)
Because of the risk of transporting pests and diseases with the merchandise and the consequent economic and ecological impact, the European Union has agreed on union-wide phytosanitary standards. In Germany, plant health (quantitative and qualitative standards) food, animal feed, and commodities like tobacco products and cosmetics will be monitored and inspected carefully before entering the German market.
Importers of plants or products made of plants need to register with the responsible authorities in their federal state in Germany if they want to import these products into the single European market or distribute them inside this market. Although it does not apply to all types of plants and products made of plant and the EU-directives determine for which items this obligations apply.
German Equipment and Product Safety Act (Geräte- und Produktsicherheitsgesetz – GPSG) is responsible for implementing of EU legislation on products safety. The conformity with safety requirements will be obtained if the product applies to the norms and standards of European Union. Conformity markings such CE-marking or the EU marking for good commodities shall document the safety compliance of the products. In addition, sufficient safety instructions are to be provided alongside the product.
Safety of goods sold on the Single European Market will be continually monitored by authorities and the European Rapid Alert System (RAPEX) ensures that the market is rapidly informed about hazardous products.
The importer may also require toget specific permit from the German Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL – Bundesamt für Verbraucherschutz und Nahrungsmittelsicherheit) for importing everyday objects that are not used as food such as toys, textiles, and jewelry.
Institutions on the European, national, state and municipal level constantly monitor food products along the whole supply chain from the importer or producer to grocery stores and restaurants’ kitchens, in order to ensure a high standard of quality. Manufacturers, importers, vendors and retailers are all responsible for the food they place on the market.
Generally, vendors of food products do not need a special registration or permission to do business, as long as their merchandise conforms with legal standards, such as the specific informational and labeling requirements, and as long as they do not pose any danger to consumers’ health. Nevertheless, customs authorities may stop and investigate food imports. They especially may require an official laboratory report proving the product’s safety, if a national or European institution has given an alert on the item/s.
General authorization requirements apply to the sale of novel foods. Furthermore, importers of dietetic food need to notify the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL – Bundesamt für Verbraucherschutz und Lebensmittelsicherheit).
In addition to the food hygiene standards applied in the Single European Market, several stricter food safety standards may also apply for some food products on the national level. Although due to the free movement of products through the European Union countries, products may enter Germany if they do not comply with these national requirements as long as they are legal in EU member state. In this case special permit by BVL is required if their products do not conform to German safety standards.
REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of chemical products) of the European Union is in charge of inspecting of products with the purpose of protecting human health and environment from the effects of dangerous substance. This certificate certifies that the importers and manufacturers of these materials have already met several risk management requirements before entering the Single European Market. REACH requirements may also apply to imports of any and all products that contain chemical substances. Polymers are excluded in this certification. REACH also requires the importers to register the information about the risks of their products on human health or environment to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), if the volume of importation exceeds one ton per year. ECHA will evaluate and investigate the imported materials further and in more details.
In order to protect human health and the environment from the effects of dangerous substances, the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of chemical products) Regulation of the European Union (1907/2006/EC) provides that importers and manufacturers of these materials need to meet several risk management requirements before their products may enter the Single European Market. Besides the importation of chemical products proper, the REACH requirements may also apply to imports of any and all products that contain these substances. However, some materials, such as most polymers, are excluded.
REACH requires manufactures and importers to assess the risks their products may impose on human health and/or the environment and to register the information with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), if they import more than a ton of the respective substance/s per year. The ECHA may then further investigate and evaluate the imported material.
Electrical and Electronic Equipment
Waste of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) is the EU regulation with which companies selling the broad range of electrical goods must comply. With this regulation, companies are required to consider the take back and recycling of their products even from the early stages of the product design.
The German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers Association as a national clearing house for the return of used electronic and electrical equipment has been established under the name of EAR (Elektro-Algeräte Register). It is in charge of the treatment of electrical and electronic waste.
Distributors of almost any kind of electrical or electronic device must register with the EAR-foundation. The Federal Environment Ministry has published a Guide to help producers, importers and distributors decide whether they have to register their products or not.
Some service companies offer to manage the whole process of the waste management of Electrical and Electronic Equipment on behalf of producers, importers and distributors. In Great Britain, the German-British Chamber of Commerce offers its assistance in this field. In Germany, the Garantiesystem Altgeräte (WEEE Guarantee System), a project sponsored by Bitkom Servicegesellschaft, is one potential partner with backing in an industrial association.