Regulations if you are importing or exporting electronic goods, including licensing, certification, safety and environmental requirements.

Introduction

This guide, which is aimed at traders who import and export electronics goods and technologies, provides an overview of the sector and sub-sectors, the key regulations you will need to comply with as an exporter or importer and selected sources of further help and support.

It also explains the trading opportunities for importers and exporters, together with licensing and environmental and safety requirements.

Find commodity codes and other measures applying to imports and exports by accessing the online UK Trade Tariff tool.

Export regulations in the electronics industry

Regulations, charges or other restrictions may apply to electronics exports as they leave the UK and when they arrive at their destination country. It is important that you research both sides of the transaction.

For more information, see the guide on Exporting goods outside the European Union (EU).

First, you need to classify your goods. Use of standardised classification codes makes it easier to check if any restrictions or charges apply. You can use the Integrated Tariff of the United Kingdom (the Tariff) to classify your goods. For more information, see the guide on finding commodity codes for import and export duty. Find commodity codes and other measures applying to imports and exports by accessing the online UK Trade Tariff tool.

Remember that in general it is much simpler to trade with other EU countries than with countries outside the EU. This is because the goods are in free circulation. The EU is a single market and the UK is in a customs union, so you can trade with other EU countries without restriction although some local charges may still apply.

Some goods will be restricted for export, eg certain radio equipment, computers, transmitters and mobile phones. Office of Communications (Ofcom) licences cover certain radio equipment and mobile phones. Find information about radiocommunications licences on the Ofcom website.

Authorised Economic Operator status

In response to increased security requirements, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has introduced a new status for businesses - Authorised Economic Operator (AEO). While the scheme is not compulsory, companies that meet the requirements of the scheme will be registered as AEOs and can take advantage of the simplified customs procedures that relate to the security and safety of their goods in transit. Read the guide on Authorised Economic Operator certification.

Export licensing and certification

An export licence is required in order to export specified goods with military or dual uses. You may require an export licence for goods with a potential military use, eg telecommunications equipment and some transmitters.

Learn more about the security and dual-use products that may need an export licence.

For information on export licences, see the guide on Import and export licences.

Exporting goods for processing

You may be able to obtain relief from customs duties when you re-import European Community (EC) goods that have previously been exported from the EC for processing. Outward processing relief (OPR) enables you to claim relief from customs duty if you can show that the exported goods were used in - or incorporated into - the products being imported.

For more information, take a look at our guide to OPR.

Before you can claim duty relief under OPR, however, you must have the appropriate authorisation.

For more information on OPR, read Notice 235.

New legislation in force from 6 April 2009 may affect your business if you trade in strategically controlled goods between overseas countries.

These controls apply to all activities undertaken from within the UK and in certain circumstances to activities undertaken by UK persons whilst overseas. The new legislation also controls activities of the transport sector concerning transport of military items.

See the guide on transport controls.

Further information is available from the Export Control Organisation (ECO), part of The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS). Find out more in the section on the Export Control Organisation.

Researching your destination for electronics exports

You should thoroughly research your export destination country when planning to export.

There are a number of issues that you ought to consider. As a starting point, you may wish to seek advice from UK Trade & Investment (UKTI). Find your local international trade team on the UKTI website.

There are also various ways that you can research a potential export destination. These include:

Find commodity codes and other measures applying to imports and exports by accessing the online UK Trade Tariff tool.

You should also consider product safety and other technical standards in your export market. Your goods may need to be adapted to comply with these. Rules in your export market may be less or more strict than in the UK.

You can ask for information about your export destination country from a range of organisations, including:

  • your local UKTI trade team
  • your UKTI team within the commercial section of the UK embassy in your destination country
  • electronics trade associations
  • the Chambers of Commerce in the UK and in your destination country

Tariffs and duties for electronics imports

A range of import-specific regulations apply to all businesses in this area. Key issues relate to the Tariff, duties, intellectual property, VAT and preferential customs schemes.

Using the Integrated Tariff

A common customs tariff is applied across all EU countries on goods imported from outside the EU. Find information on customs tariffs by reading Classify imports and exports using the UK Integrated Tariff. Details of specific tariff duties and measures are contained in the Tariff.

Find commodity codes and other measures applying to imports and exports by accessing the online UK Trade Tariff tool.

For more information on classifying your goods, see the guide on finding commodity codes for import and export duty The Tariff is used to determine the specific classification code of your goods and to find:

  • any licensing requirements that apply
  • the rates of duty and import VAT that apply
  • any additional charges, such as anti-dumping duties
  • any available preferential duty rates

Preferential duty rates

The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) allows products from a range of developing countries to be imported in the EU at a reduced or zero duty rate.

You can read about the GSP on the Europa website.

The EC also has various trade agreements with third countries (countries outside the EU), whereby goods may attract preferential duty rates. Find out if your goods qualify for a preferential duty rate and meet the appropriate rules of origin in Notice 828.

Intrastat

If you are VAT registered and the goods you acquire from or supply to VAT-registered businesses in other EU countries reach the Intrastat exemption threshold for the year, you must submit monthly supplementary declarations to HMRC. Intrastat thresholds are reviewed annually. The thresholds are £1.2 million for Arrivals and £250,000 for Dispatches.

Intrastat is the method of collecting information and producing statistics on goods traded between EU member states. See the guide on Intrastat: step-by-step guide. Intrastat is only applicable to VAT-registered traders.

Intellectual property (IP)

You should ensure that imported goods do not breach the IP rights of other businesses, so watch out for counterfeit goods and design infringements. Infringing goods can be seized and destroyed by HMRC. You can ask HMRC to check for imported counterfeit versions of your goods. Read how HMRC can help protect your IP rights in Notice 34.

Import regulations in the electronics industry

As the EU is a customs union, you can buy most goods from other member countries without restrictions - although VAT and excise duty can still apply. For more information, see the guide on trading in the EU.

If you import from outside the EU, you may have to comply with import licensing requirements and with common customs tariffs that apply across the EU. For more information, see the guide on importing your goods from outside the EU.

Import licences

Import restrictions can be product-specific or trade-specific. Many products are subject to product-specific standards and need to be supported by applicable certificates, product-specific licences and documentation.

Quite separately, quantitative restrictions or limitations and anti-dumping duties may apply to certain imported commodities. For more information, see the guide on anti-dumping and countervailing duties.

For help identifying whether you require an import licence see the guide: Import and export licences 

Find commodity codes and other measures applying to imports and exports by accessing our online UK Trade Tariff tool.

Authorised Economic Operator status

In response to increased security requirements, HMRC has introduced a new status for businesses - Authorised Economic Operator (AEO). While the scheme is not compulsory, companies that meet the requirements of the scheme will be registered as AEOs and can take advantage of the simplified customs procedures that relate to the security and safety of their goods in transit. Read the guide on Authorised Economic Operators.

Environmental and safety regulations applicable to electronic imports

If you import electronic equipment, or use hazardous chemicals or metals in the production of goods, you must comply with certain legislation. You also need to be aware of consumer safety regulations.

Environmental regulations

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) regulations mean that manufacturers, sellers and distributors are responsible for taking back and recycling unwanted electrical and electronic equipment. Products covered under the regulations include:

  • household appliances
  • telecommunications equipment
  • audiovisual and lighting equipment
  • electrical and electronic tools
  • medical devices

For more information, see the guide on waste electrical and electronic equipment.

Under Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) legislation, importers or manufacturers of more than one tonne of chemicals a year must register with the European Chemicals Agency. Read about REACH legislation on the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website.

If you use hazardous metals or chemicals in the production of goods, you must comply with the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2008 (RoHS). This means that any products imported into the EU must not contain more than the permitted levels of a range of substances. See the section on restrictions on hazardous substances in electrical equipment in the guide on environmental regulations.

Consumer safety regulations

Goods imported into the UK must comply with domestic safety regulations and standards. For example, imported household electrical products must comply with three sets of consumer safety regulations which are enforced by Trading Standards:

  • Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994
  • Plugs and Sockets, etc (Safety) Regulations 1994
  • Gas Appliances (Safety) Regulations 1995

While standards are not compulsory for many goods in the industry, CE marking is a legal requirement for some equipment, eg most types of consumer electronics, phones, computers, and medical devices. Read about standards and technical regulations for imported technology goods on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) website.

Sources of help and support in the electronics industry

As an importer or exporter in the electronics industry, you can turn to a range of bodies for help and information.

The government organisation with primary responsibility for providing trade support to UK exporters is UKTI. UKTI has an impartial global presence in countries throughout the world and helps businesses realise their international potential through knowledge transfer and ongoing partnership support. You can find information on the services they offer to exporters on the UKTI website.

You can also find details of your local international trade team using a postcode search on the UKTI website.

Government sources of help and information

In addition to UKTI, other government bodies that provide business support in the electronics industry include HMRC.

Further information

HMRC Tariff Classification Service Enquiry Line

Telephone: 01702 366 077

UKTI Enquiry Line

Telephone: 020 7215 8000

BIS ECO Helpline

Telephone: 020 7215 4594

International trade team search on the UKTI website

Export restriction checker on the BIS Goods Checker website (registration required)

Country and category of goods database on the EU Market Access Database website

UK electronics and IT hardware sector information on the UKTI website

GSP information on the Europa website

Classify imports and exports using the UK Integrated Tariff

Standards and technical regulations for imported technology goods on the IEEE website

RoHS Directive information from the RoHS website

Intellect trade association details for the UK hi-tech industry on the Intellect website

Technical information and industry updates on the IEEE website