Product Compliance When Selling Private Label Products
Mar. 12 2021
Private label products are based on pre-existing tooling (e.g. injection molds) but carrying the customer’s logo. In recent years, private label products have been especially popular among Amazon sellers and other importers that don’t have the resources or expertise to develop their products.
Some sellers are also under the impression that private label products give them a free pass when it comes to ensuring that the product is fully compliant. As I explain in this article, this is not the case.
This is covered:
• What is a private label product?
• What are some benefits to buying private label products?
• Do the same product safety standards apply to private label products?
• What if my supplier is already exporting the same product?
• How do I verify if a private label product is compliant?
• Is the importer or manufacturer responsible for ensuring compliance?
• Can I use pre-existing test reports when selling private label products?
What is a private label product?
Generally speaking, private label products are factory standard products made using existing tooling. For example, a watch made using a pre-existing mold and other standard components could, therefore, be classified as a private label product.
That said, private label products also carry the customer’s brand. Products can also be partially made using new tooling, and existing tooling.
What are some benefits to buying private label products?
The main benefit is that you’ll save money on tooling. Injection molds and other tools can cost thousands of dollars, and sometimes it’s unnecessary to reinvent the wheel.
Besides, you can also get your product to market faster than if you’ll need to buy new molds or another tooling - a process that can take several months.
Do the same product safety standards apply to private label products?
Product standards and other rules normally don’t distinguish between custom-designed products or private label products. As such, you should always assume that you need to comply with all certification, lab testing, labeling, and other requirements - as if you designed the product from scratch.
What if my supplier is already exporting the same product?
Some suppliers claim that lab testing is not necessary, simply because they’re “already exporting the product to customers in other countries”. Even if that’s true, it’s not considered the “same product” unless it’s the same brand and production run.
In short, this argument is not a free pass to import and sell a private label product that is not tested or correctly documented.
How do I verify if a private label product is compliant?
You can either request the supplier’s pre-existing lab test reports or submit the product for third-party lab testing. My experience is that few suppliers can provide existing lab test reports for private label products. Even if they can, it’s most likely only for a few products. Keep in mind that a test report is only valid for a certain product/SKU and not every single item made in their factory.
As such, third-party lab testing is often the only realistic option. Luckily, companies like Bureau Veritas offer such services.
I also recommend that you ask your supplier for feedback concerning the compliance of their product. Their engineers might know if a product can and cannot pass lab testing - which is important to know before you book a test. Otherwise, you may waste your time and money getting a product that is simply not designed with the relevant standards in mind.
Notice that private label products must also carry the same compliance marks as other products. Here are a few examples:
• CE mark (EU)
• WEEE symbol (EU)
• Country of origin (USA)
• FCC Mark (USA)
• Textiles Care Label
• CPSIA Tracking Label (USA)
• Food contact material symbol
Importers should not assume that private label products are by default labeled according to the European Union, United States, or other labeling rules.
Is the importer or manufacturer responsible for ensuring compliance?
This depends on the product and regulation. For example, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in the United States doesn’t distinguish between private label or non-private label products. All businesses importing children’s products to the USA must follow the same process. It doesn’t matter who designed the product or owns the molds.
When it comes to CE compliance in the EU, however, this is something that plays in. Generally speaking, importers can use the supplier’s Declaration of Conformity, test report, and technical file - assuming the product is a factory brand.
However, if you apply the customer’s brand to an existing product - which is the very definition of a ‘private label product’ - then the importer becomes the legal manufacturer. This means that the importer is then fully responsible for all CE documentation.
Can I use pre-existing test reports when selling private label products?
This depends on the product, market, and regulation. In some cases, using a pre-existing test report is not an option as periodic batch testing is mandatory. That said it can be acceptable for some products - as long as the test report is valid for the same product. The problem is that this is quite rare.