My product was stopped at Customs!

What to do when Customs investigates your imported shipment.
Written by Misty Henry
Updated 6 months ago

Yikes! This is always a scary situation because we never think that our package would be the one to get stopped...if we are even thinking about it at all.

It doesn't have to be scary, though. They aren't typically gruff (some may be having a bad day as people do), and they understand that many imports may not be compliant due to the importer being unaware of the requirements for that product. Hence why they have a job.

Nonetheless, when it a package is stopped, it could be for a number of reasons.

  • Holiday - As the big buying season comes closer, they know that manufacturing facilities and importers are more likely to get sloppy and miss (or skip) steps in being compliant.
  • Previous violations or stops - There is a list of companies that have previously received violation notices ([here]). Once a shipment is stopped, anything from that importer, shipper, or manufacturing facility is at a higher risk to be stopped.
  • Complaint - Yes, competition can report a company and put a notice to any agency, including Customs that a non-compliant shipment may be arriving at port soon.
  • Intellectual Property - This goes along with complaints, but can also be caught visually if the agent recognizes certain 'red flags' regarding the property (like not having official licensing labeling or looking 'off'). These shipments are likely to be detained and destroyed per request of the owner of the intellectual property being infringed upon.

Ok, but what do I do if my stuff has already been stopped?

First, I want you to take a deep breath in. Second, read the email you received very carefully.

Did it come from the US Customs and Border Protection agency or Department of Homeland Security?
Are you expecting a shipment?
Does it mention the port it is from and is that a port you expect your shipment to come from?
Does it have an AWB or B/L number attached?

If the answer is 'no' to most/all or you feel off about it, double check directly with the import team:

If the answer is 'yes' to most/all, then read the email carefully once again. What are they requesting from you? Typically it will be a Children's Product Certificate, but could also be information regarding lab testing or labeling.

Do your best to keep communication within a few hours as they may penalize you for delaying responses over 24 hours. This penalty can simply be a 'strike' on your record where they may be less lenient in the future if stopped again.

How do I keep this from happening?

Well, you can't *keep* it from happening, but there are a few things you can do to make sure that if your package is stopped, it continues through without contact.

  • Properly filled Customs forms
  • Children's Product Certificate is included with the shipment
  • Double and triple check with your manufacturing facility that your labeling and packaging has all of the required information
  • Make certain that all lab reports are from CPSC-accepted labs and are no more than a year old.
  • Double and triple check that you have the rights to the designs and products that will be in each shipment.

Links to Agency Resources

- Federal Trade Commission: What requires labeling of fiber content?, Clothing care information
- Customers & Border Protection: Country of origin markings
- Consumer Product Safety Commission: Tracking Label

More Assistance

Join my free Facebook group, US Product Safety Compliance.
The Makers Community membership.
Free Checklist.
Free basic product safety course.

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