Risk when working with Chinese intermediaries/agents

Experiences in importing from China

07.10.2020

A new customer contacted us because he had almost lost almost 70,000 euros in China. He wanted to import foggers from China. He had placed a wanted ad and a buyer who claimed to be an expert in purchasing from China to Germany contacted him. The Chinese buyer claimed that the valid certificates were available and that the nameplates for the import from China to Germany were sufficient, as was the manual that you had already sent in German. The customer only had to add their own model name and logo.

The buyer sent the customer an offer from an alleged Chinese manufacturer for USD 75 per device. The buyer did not want a separate commission, which did not surprise the customer, since he was not familiar with the area and assumed that it was normal for the agent to receive a commission from the supplier. He ordered a 20FCL with 850 units at a total cost of $63,750. During a customs inspection that was ordered in the port of Hamburg, there were various objections from the product safety authorities (insufficient nameplate, application of incorrect guidelines and standards, ultimately devices cannot be imported). The Chinese buyer continued to insist that everything was correct and that all other customers could get the devices through customs without any problems. Therefore, the customer turned to us for assistance.

The intermediary ignored all emails, so we contacted the alleged manufacturer directly. However, he announced that he was only an intermediary. But he tells us the data of the manufacturer. He informed us and also shows us in the email correspondence that the buyer explicitly bought devices without CE conformity, since the Chinese agent wanted to save money, the purchase price for the agent was 30 USD. The customer had been content with a certificate which merely states that the Chinese trading company declares that the device is CE compliant without requiring any proof of conformity. After talking to the trading company (a Chinese import & export company), the latter explained that the Chinese buyer had commissioned him to increase the price to USD 75, and that he himself had only received 3% of the purchase price of 850 x USD 30 = USD 765 to have the rest paid to the Chinese buyer. We were able to get the Chinese dealer and the manufacturer in China to take back the devices, although the customer has to send them back at their own expense. The refund is thus at 26 265 USD. The Chinese buyer pocketed the difference of USD 37,485. With the Shipping costs (return) that the customer had, the damage is over USD 40,000.

However, we were able to recover more than 30% of the amount paid for the customer, and criminal charges were filed against the agent. Supposedly she has already invested the money and is now paying back at least in small monthly installments.

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