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Import of substances into the EU

To which territories does REACH apply?

REACH is a EU Regulation that directly applies in all Member States of the European Union. REACH is of EEA (European Economic Area) relevance as it has been incorporated into the Agreement on the European Economic Area. This means that REACH also applies in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Substances imported into the EEA from Switzerland (a non-EU country belonging to the European Free Trade Association but not to the EEA) are treated under REACH in the same way as substances imported from any other non-EEA country. The Member States are best placed to explain how REACH applies to their territories (autonomic areas or overseas territories). We therefore recommend contacting the national REACH helpdesk of the relevant country to clarify specific questions in this regard.

What are the obligations of non-EEA companies?

Manufacturers established outside of the European Economic Area (EEA)/EU do not have direct obligations under REACH, as the EU importer needs to comply with the obligations.  Non-EU companies exporting substances to the EU can (but are not obliged to) appoint an "only representative" to fulfil the obligations of importers. More guidance on only representatives can be found in our Q&A section on Only Representatives and in the Guidance on registration section "Only representative of a non-EU manufacturer".

For further information, see also the webpage concerning the non-EU companies.

Should the importer always be considered as the same legal entity as the consignee stated on the simplified administrative document (SAD) used by the customs authorities? Does this imply that the consignee is considered to be responsible for registration?

No. The importer is the natural or legal person established within the European Union (EU, for REACH and CLP also covering the European Economic Area, EEA) who is responsible for import, i.e. the physical introduction (of goods) into the customs territory of the EU (Article 3(10) of REACH).

The responsibility for import depends on many factors such as who orders, who pays, and who deals with the customs formalities or the "INCOTERMS" chosen, but these might not be conclusive on their own. In many instances, the end receiver of the goods (the consignee) will also be the legal entity responsible for the import. However, this is not always the case.

If, for example, you order goods from a company (Company B) established in the EU, which acts as a distributor, you probably do not know where the goods originate from. Company B may choose to order the goods from either an EU-based manufacturer or from a non-EU-based manufacturer.

If the Company B chooses to order from a non-EU-based manufacturer, the goods may be delivered directly from them to you to save on transportation costs. If this happens, your company will be stated as the consignee on the simplified administrative document form and customs handling will take place in your country. Payment for the goods will, however, be settled between you and Company B.

Company B should be considered the legal entity responsible for the physical introduction of the goods into the customs territory of the EEA (importer). You would then be a downstream user. The obligation to register would consequently lie with Company B.

You, on the other hand, will have to be able to prove through documentation to the enforcement authorities that you are a downstream user, for example, by showing that the order was placed to the distributor.

In addition, when interpreting the term "importer" according to the REACH Regulation, it is not possible to fall back upon the Community Customs Code (Regulation (EEC) No. 2913/92), recast in Regulation (EU) 952/2013.

What are the obligations of importers of articles?

Under some circumstances, article importers have to register or notify substances in articles to ECHA (see Article 7 of REACH): these obligations are in general the same as for producers of articles. When placing articles on the market in the EEA, importers of articles may also have to communicate information on substances in their articles to their customers. In order to establish whether registration, notification or communication duties apply, any importer of articles is advised to follow first the Guidance in a Nutshell on requirements for substances in articles: http://echa.europa.eu/support/guidance-on-reach-and-clp-implementation/guidance-in-a-nutshell.

Who is an importer?

An importer is any natural or legal person established within the Community who is responsible for import (Article 3(11) of the REACH Regulation). Import means the physical introduction into the customs territory of the Community (Article 3(10)).

The scope of the customs territory of the Community is defined in the relevant Community legislation on customs that should be consulted for further information. [Council Regulation (EEC) No 2913/92 of 12 October 1992 establishing the Community Customs Code].

It is important to note, however, that the REACH Regulation and the Customs legislation are independent from each other.

Please note that according to Article 3(12) of REACH, the import of a substance on its own, in mixtures or in articles manufactured or produced outside the European Union is considered to fulfil the conditions for placing the substance, mixture or article on the Union market.

As stated in section, ‘Who is responsible for the registration in case of import?’ of the Guidance on Registration, the responsibility for import depends on many factors such as who orders, who pays, who is dealing with the customs formalities, but this might not be conclusive on its own. This Guidance can be found on the ECHA website at: http://echa.europa.eu/support/guidance

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