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Certificate of Conformity: Importance, Criticality and Risk

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The safest business transaction happens when the buyer and seller exchange a product for cash across the table. But in the real world, this rarely happens. Commercial transactions are far too complex to provide the comfort of personal verification. Hence buyers must find methods through which full protection can be assured. The Certificate of Conformity is one method wherein universally accepted documentation is shared between buyers and sellers to protect mutual interests.

Do You Know? The Certificate of Conformity must comply with the requirements of the laws and regulations of both the sender’s country and that of the buyers. 

What is a Certificate of Conformity?

The Certificate of Conformity is issued by an authorized authority to a consignment if it fulfils the requirements of Government regulations, Safety requirements and Technical specifications. Because it is so specific, the Certificate of Conformity will vary from one industry to another. For example, the Certificate for a pharma consignment will be widely different from an electronics product shipment.

Who Issues the Certificate of Conformity?

In many cases, the Certificate of Conformity is issued by a person or agency holding a Government issued licence for this purpose. Just like third-party inspection or due diligence services, these agencies earn the licence based on their credibility and track record. Because of their reputation and industry, buyers know their certification can be trusted. The Bureau issues Certificates after ascertaining that the manufacturer has met all the standards set by the Bureau.

Also Read: Disadvantages and Advantages of Exporting in India?

Pre-requisites for Obtaining the Certificate of Conformity (COC)

The Certificate of Conformity (COC) is a document that places a heavy responsibility on the shoulders of the Issuing Authority. Hence, the Issuing Authority will be very cautious in granting their approval. Several stringent steps are taken to ensure that the Certification is accurate and can be trusted. 

Application Form and Documentation

Since the right documentation is at the core of this certification, it is advisable to understand and absorb the process and documentation before embarking on applying for certification. The application for a Certificate of Conformity is to be made to the Bureau in a well-designed and structured form. The Form ensures that every piece of relevant information is captured, lending no room for any ambiguity. (Form V and Form III in the case of the Bureau of Goods and Standards). Typically, the application will seek the following information. 

This is a generic list and will vary considerably depending on the type of manufacturing and product.

  1. Product identification.
  2. Brief description of the product for which the Certificate of Conformity is applied.
  3. Specify the safety regulations the product must pass.
  4. List of the safety regulations the product must be tested for. 
  5. Reference of the Test Reports or Certificates relating to this production.
  6. For inputs used in manufacturing, the identity of the Importer or manufacturer.
  7. Name, address, and all contact details of importers or domestic vendors certifying the input product.
  8. Contact details of the person keeping records of test results. 
  9. Date and place where the product was manufactured.
  10. Place and date of the tests conducted.
  11. Details of the Test Reports.
  12. Details of third-party testing agencies, if their services were used.

Product Testing For Certificate of Conformity 

CoC can be considered as a way of ensuring that consumers in the importing countries are protected against harmful or sub-standard products. Following are aspects of Product Testing in CoC:

Also read: What Is Export Oriented Unit Scheme? – EOU Scheme Meaning & Benefits

Testing Process and Requisites

Every product that needs to be issued a Certificate of Conformity must have a test report. Testing may be done either at a third-party laboratory on an in-house test done by the manufacturer.

If it is a third-party report, the test lab should be one of those recognised by the Bureau and, in relevant cases, recognised by NABL also known as National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories.

If testing is done in-house, it will be accepted if the manufacturer has all the equipment, instruments and testing materials specified for such tests. Moreover, the manufacturer should ensure that the tests are conducted by suitably qualified and experienced personnel.

Sometimes, the situation might demand that only part of the tests are done at a third-party lab while the rest is done in-house. This is also permitted if the applicant can justify the need for splitting the series of tests. The Bureau will then accept the issue of the Certificate of Conformity.

Validity of Test Reports

The Certificate of Conformity is issued only if the latest test report is less than 180 days old. But there would also be cases where the testing will not involve just one test but multiple tests. In such cases, the Bureau sets certain time limits for the age of the test report. In such cases, the latest report should be less than 180 days old, while the oldest should not be over 365 days old.

Partial Tests

There can also be surface cases where tests have been done partially. While, strictly speaking, this is not permissible for the issue of a Certificate of Conformity, the Bureau makes exceptions in rare, deserving cases. The applicant has to give reasons to justify why only partial testing is possible and how it will not compromise the three founding pillars of the Certificate of Conformity – Regulatory, Safety, and Specifications.

Factory Visit

A factory visit is mandatory by the Bureau for inspection of the manufacturing facilities, testing and quality assurance and documentation systems that are required to ensure consistency of results.

Issue of Certificate of Conformity

Once these are done, the Certificate of Conformity is generally issued for one year. At times, it is even issued for two years.

Also read: Want to Start a Spice Export Business in India? Here’s What You Need to Know!

Is Certificate of Conformity Mandatory?

BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) issues the ISI mark of certification. This is not mandatory except for certain listed products. Similarly, a Certificate of Conformity, issued by the Bureau of Goods and Standards, is a matter of contractual terms between the buyer and seller. However, the Government of India passed legislation through the Certificate of Conformity (CoC) under Scheme-IV of Schedule II, Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) (Conformity Assessment) Regulations – 2018, through which it listed certain specific products for which the Certificate of Conformity was made mandatory. Vide a notification in 2020, the following products have been selected for compulsory certification of conformity:

  1. Stampings/Laminations and Cores of Transformers (with or without winding).
  2. Requirement of Retro-Reflective Devices for Bicycles

Beyond this, it is purely a matter of buyer-seller agreement. However, in most cases of exports, the seller makes it mandatory to issue a Certificate of Conformity for their comfort of protection. Also, several countries insist that this be part of the documentation for their Customs clearance.

Also read: List Of Import-Export Business Ideas To Carry Out In India

Conclusion:

As we see, the Certificate of Conformity has excellent relevance in most international transactions. It is an added protection to the buyer beyond the contractual warranties. Professional companies make sure that their teams are fully equipped to handle this smoothly and effectively, so that processing by Customs in the buyer’s country goes through without a hitch.

As always, it is advisable to seek the advice and support of a professional firm or individual with expertise and a good track record in handling and obtaining applications for a Certificate of Conformity. The fees incurred are insignificant compared to the enormous costs and stress involved if the consignment is held up at Customs in a faraway country.
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