Pre-Shipment Inspection | 5 Very Common Problems
In recent years we have seen an increase in the number of buyers who conduct regular pre-shipment inspection in China to ensure product quality.
The growth in the number of inspections is a positive sign. It shows that more buyers are committed to make sure their customers get what they pay for. Secondly, it forces Chinese manufacturers to take more responsibility to ensure product quality and compliance with international laws and regulations.
Typical problems that foreign buyers encounter if not conducting a pre-shipment inspection in China include, but is not limited to:
- Non-functioning products – This is certainly true for electronic products which can often stop working after one simple use
- Visible damages or scratches on the product – This is especially true for careless manufacturers and suppliers who are only looking to make a sale and not a long-term business relationship
- Wrong specifications – Is your product made of cotton, or is it only 50% cotton and 50% wool? Does the blender rotate with a speed of 20 000 rotations per minute (RPM) or is it actually only rotating 15000 RPM.
- Missing labels – Did the supplier remember to apply a label of origin label (”Made in China”). This might not seem important, but it is crucial when importing into places like the US or Canada and can lead to heavy fines at customs or even confiscation of the products at the port.
One major cultural difference between the Western world and China is our business philosophy. In the west we trust our business partners until proven otherwise. In China they live by the opposite philosophy; They don’t trust their business partners until proven otherwise.
This might explain why you might experience quality issues although you tell your supplier that you will come back fore more business in the future.
It takes time to build relationships in China. A five-minute chat on Alibaba is probably not what will make your supplier keep their promise of providing best in class fidget spinners.
For the reasons mentioned above, it is not strange that foreign buyers conduct pre-shipment inspection in China.
A pre-shipment inspection in China is a necessary first step for any trading company. It helps to ensure a fully compliant shipment of quality products.
An inspection is not enough by itself and more precautions must be taken to eliminate risk factors. Below we have listed five major problems that might arise when picking an inspector and planning out your inspection plan.
1 – Conflict of interest
Inexperienced buyers will usually have their Freight Forwarder conduct the inspection for them. This is mainly for convenience. The problem with this approach is that a Freight Forwarder makes most of its profit from shipping products, not from inspections. The Forwarder will therefore be inclined to pass your inspection to make sure you don’t cancel the shipment.
Make sure to work with an independent third-party inspector to have your pre-shipment inspection done unbiased.
2 – Corruption
Some buyers will only consider price when choosing an inspection company. This approach is risky, especially if you deal with Chinese inspection companies, since it is difficult to verify their independence.
Some Chinese inspection companies might claim their independence, while the reality on the ground can be very different.
In some cases, the supplier might offer to cover the expenses of the inspector. In the most severe cases the supplier might offer travel, entertainment, accommodation and other type of “gifts”. This special treatment can make the outcome of the inspection biased. A corrupt inspector will accept the gifts in order to finance their expenses and to have a good lifestyle.
3 – A poorly defined inspection plan
As a buyer you should be able to tell your inspectors what to look for specifically. Many buyers will follow the guidelines of the inspection company, without knowing their rights. Poor inspection companies will not inform their clients about their rights.
You have the right to tell your supplier to look for specifics. Before ordering an inspection you should have an overview of potential quality issues that might arise.
If you are inexperienced in purchasing products from abroad, make a search for your product on Amazon. Take a look at the negative reviews given for similar products and map them out. Based on this you should be able to get an overview of potential quality problems that might arise.
4 – Paying the supplier in full before inspection
Typically, your supplier will require that you pay 30% upfront, and 70% after production. You should therefore have the inspection conducted before paying the remaining balance of 70%.
The whole point with conducting a pre-shipment inspection in China is to avoid paying the supplier before you have controlled the product quality. It is usually too late once you’ve made the payment. Very few supplier will freely reimburse you if they know you live in another country.
5 – Thinking that a Pre-shipment inspection will protect 100% of your investment
A pre-shipment inspection aims to control product quality and compliance with international regulations and safety standards.
In some cases, the supplier might not be an authentic manufacturer. Unless you conduct a factory audit in advance, you will probably lose the initial deposit of 30%, . You’ll need to arrange a factory audit prior to making an order ff you want to verify the authenticity of your supplier.
If you can’t afford to arrange both a factory audit and a pre-shipment inspection, your best bet is to pay the initial deposit to your supplier through PayPal.