Small businesses are increasingly buying and selling goods internationally through e-commerce, a trend that only accelerated through the COVID pandemic. With the global e-commerce market worth almost $4.9 trillion in 2020, U.S. e-commerce sales grew at over 30 percent and continue to grow in 2021. As small businesses increasingly use global e-commerce to grow their businesses, you need to be aware that you still need to comply with the same trade rules and conduct your due diligence as you do with any transaction.
With the increasing volume of e-commerce packages, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) established the e-Commerce Branch to help small businesses understand e-commerce compliance. Branch resources include an e-Commerce Compliance Guide for online sellers and an e-Commerce Counterfeit Awareness Guide for consumers and importers. This branch also partners and participates in numerous webinars and online trainings on the latest regulations and available resources for e-commerce traders.
If you are importing goods via e-commerce, you should consider the following:
- Know the regulatory and other requirements for the products you are importing, including any restrictions or special forms required. In addition to the resources above, CBP also provides an “Importing Into the United States” publication and provides contact information for sector-specific experts at CBP’s Centers of Excellence. Both can help you become familiar with the rules and where to find them.
- Do your due diligence of the seller and the information they provide about the product, especially any information provided on official documents, such as the customs declaration.
- You should discuss with the seller the exact delivery arrangements, including who will be responsible for shipping costs. The choices are freight, courier service, or international postal service.
Similarly, if you are selling goods via e-commerce to someone outside the United States, you should also consider the items above. The Commerce Department’s Country Commercial Guides are a great resource to familiarize yourself with the import rules and other requirements, including the rules for e-commerce, in your destination market. You may also want to consider any value-added taxes and other additional fees in your pricing strategy. Additionally, you should ask if there are U.S. export controls and any other requirements by CBP and other U.S. government agencies.
You should also consider steps to protect your intellectual property. U.S. intellectual property holders with federally protected copyrights and trademarks can take the additional step to record rights at the U.S. border through CBP’s Intellectual Property Rights e-Recordation (IPRR) Program. You can register for a trademark in the U.S. as well as other markets you sell in through the Madrid Protocol in one application.
Explore more e-commerce resources for international sales at SBA.gov/tradetools. If you have questions about selling internationally, please call SBA’s International Trade Hotline toll-free at 855-722-4877 or email [email protected].
Reprinted with permission from – score.org – By Michele Schimpp