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What is a Certificate of Compliance (COC) in international shipping?

A certificate of compliance is a quality assurance document, issued by an autonomous third-party certification body. Learn more about its relevance for exporters in this blog.
What is a Certificate of Compliance (COC)
The transfer of goods between borders is a complex process involving various compliance documentation. Among these, the Certificate of Compliance (COC) is especially important as it serves as a vital confirmation of a product's adherence to international standards. It is essential for exporters to understand what a Certificate of Compliance means as it directly influences the legality, marketability, and acceptance of products in international markets.

What is a Certificate of Compliance (COC)?

A Certificate of Compliance (COC) is a critical quality assurance document, issued by an autonomous third-party certification body. Its purpose is to confirm that a particular product complies with specific international standards, such as ISO 9001 or ISO 14001.1 This certification is crucial for instilling customer confidence, as it assures buyers that the product is of high quality and adheres to established standards. In certain industries and for specific products, a COC is not only beneficial but also legally mandated.

Why is a Certificate of Compliance (COC) required?

A Certificate of Compliance (COC) is essential in international trade for several reasons2:

Legal adherence:

It serves as a legal document that certifies a product's compliance with the specific laws and regulations of the importing country. This legal conformity is essential for preventing legal complications, fines, or sales prohibitions.

Market access and customs clearance:

Many countries require a COC for customs clearance. Without it, products may face delays, additional scrutiny, or be confiscated at the border.

Consumer trust:

A COC helps build consumer trust by reassuring consumers and stakeholders that the product meets safety and quality standards.

Risk mitigation:

The COC minimizes the risk of costly recalls and reputational damage associated with non-compliance. It acts as a safeguard, ensuring that products do not violate safety norms or quality benchmarks.

Global standardization:

It helps in maintaining consistency and standardization of products in the global market. This standardization is essential for industries where safety and quality are paramount.

Environmental compliance:

For many products, a COC also confirms adherence to environmental standards, an increasingly important factor in global trade.

Steamlined international trade:

By providing a clear and standardized way to prove compliance, COCs help facilitate international trade by making it smoother and more efficient for businesses to export their products.

Who issues a Certificate of Compliance?

The COC is typically issued by accredited certification bodies or regulatory authorities in the exporting country.2 These entities perform tests, inspections, and evaluations to ensure that products meet the specific standards and regulations required by the importing nation.

How to obtain a Certificate of Compliance?

Obtaining a Certificate of Compliance (COC) involves a multi-step process. Here’s a detailed breakdown:

Research and identify applicable standards:

Start by identifying the specific regulations and standards applicable to your product in the destination country. This is crucial as standards can vary significantly between different markets and product categories.

Engage with a certified body or authority:

Once you know the requirements, engage with an accredited certification body or regulatory authority. These entities are authorized to assess, test, and certify products for compliance.

Prepare product for testing:

Ensure your product is ready for evaluation. This might involve internal checks or preliminary testing to confirm that your product will meet the required standards.

Submit product for evaluation and testing:

The certification body will conduct a thorough evaluation of your product. This process can include lab testing, quality assurance checks, and other assessments relevant to your product type.

Undergo a factory audit (if required):

For some products, a factory audit is part of the certification process. This involves an inspection of the manufacturing processes to ensure it also complies with required standards.

Review and rectify:

If any non-compliance issues are identified during evaluation, rectify them promptly. This might involve modifying the product design, changing materials, or altering production processes.

Obtain and review the certification:

Once your product passes all tests and inspections, the certifying body will issue a Certificate of Compliance. Review this document carefully for accuracy.

Maintain compliance:

After obtaining certification, maintain compliance through periodic testing and quality checks, and stay aware of any changes in relevant standards or regulations.

Renew certification:

Your COC may have a fixed validity period. Renewal may be necessary after a certain period or when there are significant changes to the product or relevant standards.

The Certificate of Compliance is more than just a document; it serves as a gateway to global markets. By ensuring compliance, businesses can experience smoother trade and establish trust and credibility in international markets. It is important for traditional and e-commerce exporters to understand the varying compliance requirements for cross-border trade, and fulfill all necessary criteria for hassle-free exports. For more support on export documentation and compliance, exporters can explore Export Compliance Dashboard by Amazon where you can understand regulatory requirements for your export business and get end-to-end support to obtain on required documents from third-party service providers.

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If you are a business owner and you want to sell your products to the world, Amazon Global Selling enables you to list and sell ‘Made in India’ products on 18 Amazon global marketplaces. As an e-commerce exports program, Amazon Global Selling provides support and guidance at every step of your export journey, connecting you to Amazon’s Service Provider Network for tailored compliance, payments, and logistics support.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Certificate of Compliance a mandatory requirement?
Certificate of Compliance (COC) requirements vary based on the product type and the regulations of the destination country. For certain products and markets, a COC is mandatory to demonstrate compliance with safety, quality, and environmental standards. However, for other products or in different jurisdictions, it might be optional or not required at all.
Which government department verifies the Certificate of Compliance?
The relevant government department responsible for checking a Certificate of Compliance depends on the country and the product. Commonly, the customs authorities in the importing country review these certificates during the import process. Additionally, specific regulatory agencies overseeing product safety, environmental protection, and consumer affairs may also inspect COCs for products falling under their jurisdiction.
What is the validity of a Certificate of Compliance?
The validity period of a Certificate of Compliance can vary greatly. It depends on the issuing authority, the type of product, and the regulations of the importing country. Some COCs are valid for a single shipment, while others may last for several years. It's important for exporters to check the specific validity period for their COC and be aware of any conditions that might require re-certification, such as changes in product design or updates in regulations.
Published on February 28, 2024.

Sources:
1. https://www.inboundlogistics.com/articles/certificate-of-compliance/
2. https://www.inboundlogistics.com/articles/certificate-of-compliance/
3. https://www.export.gov/article2?id=Transaction-Related-Documents

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