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Pssst, China Has Quality Control Laws

China customs inspections

A China Daily article, Foreign luxury retail brands fail quality control test: study,, nicely highlights what Westerners far too often fail to realize about China: it has laws. More specifically, it has import laws and quality control/consumer protection laws.

Now I know most of you are murmuring, “of course,” but bear with me here. I can cite you example after example where companies  have completely failed to account for this.

But first, more on the China Daily article.

The article is on how clothes from well-known luxury goods makers like Hermes, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Paul & Shark, Trussardi and Hugo Boss were “proven to be substandard in a routine quality control test.” and then ordered “to be withdrawn from sale.” These garments “were manufactured in Italy, Morocco, Korea, France, Turkey, Vietnam and India before being imported into China” and “covered a range of attire, from jeans and T-shirts to sweaters, skirts and suits:”

Defects in the manufacturing included poor color fastness, unacceptable amounts of acid and high levels of formaldehyde, which can cause skin rashes, eye irritations, allergies, respiratory problems and even cancer, the report warned.

Another fault uncovered by the test included improper labeling. In response to this claim, Cao Lei, a communication director with Hermes in China, said:”Zhejiang administration took the samples in December 2009 and we were informed of the results in January 2010. It is undeniable that we have made some mistakes in labeling and we have started to correct all of the labels on the mainland, which will be finished by the end of March.”

I do not know what happened here, but I can tell you about other instances of which I am aware and the answer is complete inattention.
Here goes:

1. I am going to have to be incredibly vague here, but the China business lawyers at my firm were working with a well-known U.S. company that spent millions of dollars building a factory in China, only to be told that it could not import an item absolutely critical for manufacturing its final product. It had taken this company a year and lots of money to prove the safety of this item to the United States Environmental Protection agency, but for some reason, it never occurred to the company that China might require the same sort of proof. It went through testing of this item in China and eventually it was able to open the factory, nearly a year later.

2. Our China lawyers every so often get calls from doctors, dentists, and architects who plan to go to China to practice for a while, oftentimes in quasi-retirement. I ask them whether they are licensed in China and there is always a long pause. They then say that it never occurred to them that they might need a license to practice their craft in China.

3. Many years ago, a couple of my law firm’s international litigators represented a British company that had paid millions of dollars from a Russian company and received really bad fish product. Unable to sell the fish in England, the British company eventually shipped it all to China where it was refused entry as unfit for human consumption. I asked the British company why it had shipped the product to China and they said it was because they did not know China conducted food inspections.

4. Company shipped a product (I have to be really vague here) to China where it was rejected as not being “strong enough” (and I am being vague here too). The company just assumed China’s strength requirements would not be on the “low end” and had never even bothered to check. Company assumed wrong and its product was rejected.

Bottom Line:
China has import laws, quality standards, and licensing requirements and you should know what those are before you ship or manufacturer your goods or go there as a service provider.

5 responses to “Pssst, China Has Quality Control Laws”

  1. This seems only natural to me. The days during which foreigners could look upon China as a poor, backward country are over. China envisions itself as a world leader, and we can be certain it is in the process of building world class institutions similar to those they see in the developed world.

  2. I am glad that the Chinese government is looking out for me by thoroughly testing clothing before I buy it. And I think it is very wise of them to spend money to test a product that the US EPA has already approved. And I would much rather go to a licensed Chinese physician than to a graduate of a US medical school.
    But seriously, of course China has laws. The issue is how they are applied; transparency, consistency, etc.
    China may not be so poor anymore but it is still backward. For a visible example go to a hospital or look at waste management practices outside the tourist cities. For a more abstract example, see above.
    Don’t they realize that this kind of stuff (the clothing thing) just makes them look even more backwards?………..Probably not.

  3. Re your point 2.:
    You’ll find foreign dentists and doctors aplenty in international hospitals here in China (such as for example United Family, Intl SOS, Amcare, etc.). Seeing the turnover (and the fact that most of them speak worse Chinese than me), I’m quite sure they don’t have to all go through a local licensing program…
    Similarly, you find a lot of foreign architects working in consulting firms that are very much involved in design and architecture projects.
    Frankly, the situation is similar to foreign laywers working in consulting firms advising clients on Chinese laws and regulations. By the way, a foreign lawyer working in a properly registered representative office of a foreign law firm cannot do much more!
    The point is that a foreign professional may very well come to China to exercise its profession. However, he’ll have to work within the boundaries of Chinese laws, which have actually set-up control points to ensure safety and due care:
    – the international hospital itself must possess the proper licenses (although some of its foreign doctors may not have to be licensed in China);
    – the designs and blueprints of a building must be signed off by a China-licensed Design Institute (although most of these blueprints may have actually been prepared by a foreign architect not individually licensed in China);
    – representation in actual trials in China must be through China-licensed lawyers (although most of the case strategy may have been prepared by a foreign lawyer not individually licensed in China);
    – etc.

  4. This is very interesting and I know what you are saying here. My company did something very similar when it started in China. It hired a people without realizing that it needed to sign them to written contracts. Then when the economy turned down and we fired many of them, we learned our lesson and it hurt.

  5. Are there laws that require the same standard of goods for items produced within China as the items being imported to China? If so, how well do you think they are being enforced?

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