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Legal requirements

Export to the Nordic countries is subject to not only each country’s local but also in the case of Denmark, Finland, and Sweden, EU legislation, which can make things rather complicated. (*1)

The EU legislation has laid down elaborate provisions concerning the standards of protecting consumers, labour, and environment. Food is the most demanding product group, whereas sector-specific legislation on many specialty goods is much more flexible. Of course, the better the European standards are met at the beginning of the export efforts, the easier it will be to sell to the Nordic and other European clients.

The EU legislation is enacted in the form of regulations and directives. Regulations are directly in force as such in the EU Member States, whereas directives must be transposed in the form of binding national legislation in each Member State. It is impossible to describe here all legislation concerning exports to the Nordic countries. In any case, the relevant legal rights and obligations should be checked from the official legislative acts.  

Product Safety
Manufacturers, importers, and distributors must cooperate to provide consumers with the necessary information on product safety, either by labelling the product or giving clear instructions. Importers and distributors need to monitor the safety of the products they are selling and take the necessary measures to avoid threats. The EU has general legislation on product safety: Directive 2001/95/EC  prohibits the placing on the market of products that pose a risk to consumers' health, caused by dangerous substances or by unsafe construction. The Directive applies to all products on the consumer market.

Product Liability
Product safety shall always be controlled before the product enters the market in order to avoid product liability cases. According to EU Directive 85/374/EC, your Nordic buyer (importer) can be held responsible by consumers if a product is defective and the defect causes damage. This is called product liability. If a consumer can prove that a defective product has caused him/her personal injury or property damage, he/she can seek financial compensation in the first place from the distributor under the above mentioned EU Product Liability Directive. The distributor is then entitled to pass the claim on to the importer, manufacturer or whoever comes earlier in the distribution chain.

Packaging and Labelling
The main aim of packaging is to ensure that the original quality and hygiene of the product will last until it reaches the consumer. There are also a number of legal requirements for packaging and labelling for different goods and depending on whether they are destined for industrial or consumer use. Again, the purpose is to protect consumer health and safety and provide them with relevant information about the products. A group of EU Directives (framework regulation EC 1935/2004)  specify which materials, types of plastic, and cardboard can be used in packaging in direct contact with foodstuffs. Other important directives: Packaging Directive and Directive on Textile Names.

Demonstration of Compliance
Importers have to document compliance with legal requirements. For low-risk products, there are not always specific requirements, and a Supplier's Declaration of Conformity is often sufficient. For higher-risk products, product properties may have to be verified by means of producing laboratory test reports or inspection reports. In some cases (e.g. organic products), an independent certification is necessary. The requirements regarding demonstration of compliance are laid down in directives and other legislation, but the practical procedures may vary from country to country.

Food Safety
As food safety is a very important issue in Europe, food products are governed by an extensive set of regulations. The latest general framework, which has been implemented in all EU Member States and led to a complete harmonisation, is the Food Law Regulation EC178/2002.  The food law aims at ensuring a high level of protection of human life and health, and it applies to all stages of production, processing, and distribution of food and feed.

Packaging Waste
In order to protect the environment from the waste of packaging of products placed on the Nordic market, the Nordic countries have laid down requirements on packaging. Those requirements are based on EU Directive 94/62/EC  and cover the following: the manufacturing and composition of packaging and its reusable and recoverable nature (recycling, energy recovering, composting, and biodegradable packaging).

Chemicals
Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 sets requirements concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) not only to chemical industry companies but also to producers, importers and suppliers of objects.

For more information: The Export Helpdesk is a free and user-friendly online service provided by the European Commission. This one-stop-shop service provides relevant information for developing country exporters interested in supplying the EU market. In addition, more information can be found from the Exporting to the Nordic countries guide.

Please note that EU member countries might have their own import requirements. More information on import restrictions when importing to Finland: Finnish Customs and Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira.

(1) Norway is not a member of EU; however, the Norwegian legislation is in harmony with the EU legislation.