Criminal Defense Liability of the management Technology- & IT-Law

Importing goods from Asia to Germany: What do you need to bear in mind?

What needs to be considered when importing from Asia, especially China or Vietnam – what are the pitfalls when importing goods from China and the Asian region? It is interesting to note that companies sometimes take a rather naïve approach to international trade.

This shows that you sometimes have to be extremely careful – our law firm used to advise clients, especially start-ups, who are dependent on importing products from Asia and China in particular, whether these are manufactured at the client’s request or supplied off the shelf.

Note: Our law firm based in Germany is only active in this area for criminal compliance and IT law, please refrain completely from inquiries regarding other products imported from Asia.

Imports from Asia, especially China or Vietnam

There are considerable reasons for importing products from China. The main reason is, of course, always a financial one. Our local clients include importers of blank CDs, toolboxes and toys, whose products are distributed nationwide. The considerably lower production costs from China have a noticeable effect on overall sales, and even the shipping costs for container loads are ultimately negligible if the sales model is large enough.

Import from Asia, especially China or Vietnam: What should I bear in mind? Lawyer Ferner Alsdorf on importing from China, Vietnam, Asia to Germany

When importing to Germany from China or Vietnam, there are many legal aspects to consider – find out in good time before you get into trouble.

Why is importing to Germany from China even a discussion?

The focus is regularly on health issues, which the EU Commission also addresses time and again (see here in March 2014). In fact, it is important to pay attention to which raw materials are used for production in the first place.

Unfortunately, it is sometimes the case that the information provided by the manufacturing company is not always completely correct, so that it is necessary to carry out your own checks. In addition, copyright, trademark and design law problems regularly arise: If your own delivery is suddenly stopped by customs or, after being placed on the sales market, you suddenly receive a warning and are threatened with a recall.

What should I bear in mind when importing from China?

The following aspects, for example, should be mentioned very briefly if you are wondering what needs to be taken into account when importing from China:

General contract law

It is dangerous not to clarify properly which law should apply. In my opinion, criticism of the UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (e.g. CISG) is sometimes greatly exaggerated, but it is certainly possible to achieve useful results on this basis in typical disputes, especially when it comes to defects and time limits.

Competition law

If you have products partially manufactured abroad and still have “Made in Germany” printed on them (e.g. because final production steps take place in Germany), it must be clarified whether this is still permissible at all. There are more and more disputes in this area.

Product piracy I

Be careful, product piracy is a major problem that should not be underestimated. It is unfortunately not uncommon to accidentally buy an item of clothing for resale that suddenly turns out to infringe design rights. It is also not uncommon for the supplier to suddenly become unavailable and refuse to provide recourse or information.

Import regulations and specifications

Depending on the product category, there are strict regulations on product ingredients that must be observed when importing products into the EU and Germany. Everyone knows the classics, such as phthalates (plasticizers) or the famous lead-based paint that was found on some imported products. At least contractual precautions should be taken in the event that clear specifications are deviated from. The extent to which one can rely on the promises of suppliers is an open question.

Product piracy II

Unfortunately, it has also happened that you properly order a product, such as a packaging design or operating instructions. This is delivered to you, you use it – and then the warning letter arrives. Background: The packaging design allegedly produced for you was copied by another supplier (somewhere in the world). In any case, you are now left out in the cold again with regard to the injunction claim, and the marketing of your products is at least delayed and jeopardized.

Property defects

When is there a defect? Of course, if something is defective, it is defective. But how do you deal with it if you import large quantities of USB sticks from Asia to resell them under your own name – and suddenly the USB sticks have the supplier’s name and web address printed on them? I have also had to argue about such a case.

Product piracy III

Unfortunately, I have also experienced this – you have a product bundle made abroad, consisting of operating instructions, product and outer packaging. It works smoothly, everyone is happy – but what you don’t realize is that your contractual partner “overseas” has secretly copied your templates and is using them as “cheap templates” for other contractual partners.

Additional laws

There are various ancillary laws, such as the Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act or the Batteries Act, which impose special (labeling) obligations on the first importer of goods manufactured outside Europe.

Product safety and CE marking

You must not be too naive, a warning that I unfortunately always have to give. If you import goods from China that come into contact with a consumer’s body (e.g. e-cigarettes), there is a fundamental risk of injury. It is in your own interest to ensure that the goods you sell are as safe as possible. You must also remember that, as an importer into the European Economic Area, you must ensure CE marking for numerous products (for CE marking more information here in german).

Customs & import

Import is a formalized procedure that simply has to be observed. You must observe the necessary requirements in order to avoid unnecessary delays. For smaller goods worth less than 1000 euros, the process will be relatively simple, but at the latest when larger quantities are imported, there is a risk of serious delays if the relevant procedure is not prepared

Customs & trademark law

And as a final example, take a look at imported iPhones that are imported from Asia as “refurbished models” and are unexpectedly detained by customs on suspicion of trademark infringement. In my experience, you will find that this problem can be dealt with very quickly with the support of Apple’s Brand Protection. Nevertheless, you will notice that in an ongoing sales transaction, if this short-term action causes a delivery delay of a good 2 weeks for your urgently needed replenishment, considerable problems will arise. After that, you will no longer be dependent on a single delivery from Asia.

Payment processing

At the latest when you order significantly larger quantities (some of our clients order container deliveries), you have to deal with the question of payment – credit cards are no longer an option. While we were primarily involved in payments via bank guarantees, there are a number of other payment options, which can be found here in an overview.

Importing software or IT hardware from China?

In today’s globalized world, trade in software and hardware between different countries is the order of the day. In recent decades, the People’s Republic of China has established itself as one of the largest producers and exporters of IT products. Nevertheless, there are a number of legal hurdles to overcome when importing software and IT hardware from China to Germany. This text explains the most important legal aspects to be considered when importing such products from China.

When importing software and hardware – especially microchips – from China to Germany, there are a number of legal aspects and regulations to consider. Importers should therefore familiarize themselves in detail with customs regulations, CE marking, warranty and liability conditions, data protection and data security regulations as well as the protection of intellectual property and copyrights.

Careful examination and compliance with these requirements is crucial to avoid potential legal problems and liability risks. It is advisable to seek the support of experts or specialized lawyers to ensure that all legal requirements are met and that the import of software and IT hardware from China to Germany runs smoothly.

  • Customs regulations and import duties: When importing software and IT hardware from China to Germany, the products are initially subject to the customs regulations of the European Union and Germany. These include compliance with import regulations, the payment of import duties and, if applicable, customs duties, as well as compliance with import restrictions.
  • CE marking and product safety: Another important aspect is the CE marking, which is mandatory for many products, including IT hardware. The CE marking confirms that a product complies with the applicable European safety, health and environmental protection requirements. Importers are responsible for ensuring that imported products comply with the applicable directives and standards.
  • Warranty and liability: The warranty and liability conditions are different in China and Germany. In Germany, statutory warranty periods of two years apply for new goods and one year for used goods. Importers must ensure that the products meet these requirements and offer corresponding guarantees.
  • Data protection and data security: When importing software from China, data protection and data security are of particular importance. Care must be taken to ensure that the software complies with the requirements of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the German Federal Data Protection Act (BDSG). Importers must check compliance with these regulations and, if necessary, make changes to the software in order to meet the legal requirements. The data protection conditions applicable in China must also be observed, whereby standard contractual clauses exist in China that can be used.
  • Intellectual property and copyright: The protection of intellectual property and copyrights is another critical issue when importing software and IT hardware from China. Importers must ensure that they do not import any products that infringe patents, trademarks or copyrights. Otherwise, they may be liable to prosecution in Germany or be subject to claims for damages.

Caution when importing raw materials – China began regulating raw materials required for digital hardware in mid-2023. Gallium-related goods and germanium-related items, for example, require an export license. Violations are subject to (administrative) penalties!


Importing batteries from China?

The above statements apply in general; in addition, there are some special features specifically with regard to batteries as a product.

Ensure that the batteries manufactured in China comply with the standards and regulations applicable in Germany and the EU. These include safety and performance requirements, environmental regulations and material restrictions such as the RoHS Directive (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) and the REACH Regulation (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals).

Batteries, especially lithium-ion batteries, are considered dangerous goods and are therefore subject to special transportation regulations. Make sure that your batteries are properly packaged, labeled and transported to meet the safety requirements for the transportation of dangerous goods. Finally, remember that whether you only import or also manufacture yourself, you are considered a manufacturer within the meaning of the Battery Act and the new EU Battery Regulation.

Conclusion on importing from China

The above examples of imports from China have been chosen at random. The advice is: Be careful! Importing too naively quickly takes its revenge, and sufficient experience in dealing with such import transactions should not be underestimated. The Asian and Chinese markets certainly offer great opportunities that should not be underestimated. However, certain aspects must be taken into account in advance when negotiating with potential suppliers or producers.

German Lawyer at Law Firm Ferner Alsdorf
I am a specialist lawyer for criminal law + specialist lawyer for IT law and dedicate myself professionally entirely to criminal defence and IT law, especially software law. Before becoming a lawyer, I was a software developer. I am an author in a renowned commentary on the German Code of Criminal Procedure (StPO) as well as in professional journals.

Our law firm specialises in criminal defence, white-collar crime and IT law / technology law. Note our activity in digital evidence in IT security and software law.
German Lawyer Jens Ferner (Criminal Defense & IT-Law)