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Best Practices for Amazon Compliance in Europe

Amazon is one of the largest marketplaces in the world. With a presence on five continents and dedicated websites for 20 countries, Amazon is potentially the most global marketplace. For sellers, that opens a wealth of opportunities to grow in markets that are otherwise inaccessible, especially with the advent of FBA and Amazon warehousing products. However, it takes a lot of work to break into international markets.

The European Union (EU) includes 27 member states but not the UK. While many of the guidelines listed here can adapt to the British market, it’s not the same. So, you’ll have to double-check regulations before importing to the UK as well. However, with eight Amazon stores in the EU, it’s a ripe entrepreneurial undertaking. Besides setting up a storefront though, you’ll have to complete several tasks for overall EU Amazon compliance, as well as research your offering and any associated requirements.

Luckily, Amazon makes the process relatively easy (although Amazon itself no longer offers direct support services as of 2024).

EU compliance on Amazon

Amazon’s requirements for European sellers based in the U.S. are intended to bring  U.S. sellers in line with EU regulations. They’re primarily designed around customer protection since the EU has significantly more to ensure both customer and product safety, as well as facilitate easy item returns regardless of their point of purchase:

  • Product safety: Every product is required to meet certain safety standards and regulatory requirements. Amazon is also part of the European Commission Product Safety Pledge, wherein they pledge to monitor for product recalls and safety warnings, maintain the quality of their products, and list safety warnings and labels for their EU customers.
  • Returns: EU legislation requires that customers who purchase a product online be able to return it, with regulation granting a minimum of 14 days for no reason. In turn, Amazon accepts product returns for 30 days after the order when it’s fulfilled by Amazon.

When you move to the Amazon Global Marketplace, you’ll be able to see and manage your Amazon EU Compliance via Seller Central. Simply go to Performance –> Account Health –Manage Compliance/Product compliance Requests.

Understanding VAT requirements

VAT (value added tax) is a tax that all registered traders in Europe must add to the cost of their goods. If you sell in any EU country, you’ll have to register in that country. This is the same concept as having a sales tax nexus in a U.S. state and having to pay sales tax in that state.

In addition, you must be VAT registered to collect the tax from your customers. You’ll owe it either way, but if you’re registered for VAT, you can add it to the price of the purchase and not pay income tax on that value. The standard VAT rate ranges from 9% to 25% depending on the product type and the specific country. However, on average, you’ll pay between 19% and 22% in VAT.

You should also be aware of the following key information:

  • You’ll owe VAT in every country where you sell products.
  • You have to register for a VAT number in every country where you sell.
  • You’ll have to appoint an EU-based tax partner to represent you in the EU.

Amazon conveniently offers a VAT service that’ll register your VAT number, gather data, collect VAT on your behalf, and set up everything for you to make the VAT payment. You can choose to do this yourself though, especially if you intend to expand off of Amazon.

Specific product requirements

It’s important to understand what safety and compliance requirements your products have before you attempt to sell them in the EU. This is especially critical if you manufacture your own items rather than functioning as a reseller. However, in either case, you’ll want to know:

  • Which specific requirements apply to your specific products and whether or not they vary across your inventory. During this research, the EC.Europa.EU should be your greatest resource. However, the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC) and theBritish Standards Institute can also come in handy. Many of the compliance requirements you need are also right in Seller Central. Some countries also have specific regulations like the Extended Producer Responsibility in Germany, which will become an EU-wide regulation by 2030
  • Which certifications your products need to reach the EU market
  • Whether or not you want CE marking and if it applies to your products
  • If your products have a risk rating or level

The good news is that Amazon has a wealth of resources dedicated to helping you handle this. You can ask Amazon for an audit, which they will set up via a third party to let you know which compliance specifications apply to your items. You can also find a third-party EU compliance partner on your own if you prefer not to send everything through Amazon. However, you can access resources in the Seller University, request a product audit and product inspections, conduct testing, and work towards gaining certifications — all without leaving Seller Central. That’s especially worthwhile if you manufacture your own products.

If you also plan to sell products in the EU off of Amazon, you may want to invest in a third-party tool. Otherwise, Seller Central’s Compliance Reference Portal will alert you when you have a compliance obligation you’re not meeting, which can save you a lot in terms of extra investment.

International trade compliance

International trade compliance primarily means preparing your shipments in a way that meets the standards of overseas postage and local customs in the country you’ll ship to. Unfortunately, those rules can vary significantly depending on the country where you’ll operate. For the most part, if you use FBA, Amazon will bulk export your products to an EU warehouse and thus minimize the regulatory compliance per item.

In other cases, you’ll be expected to prepare every product to meet European trade requirements. For example:

  • Packages must have proper EU-compliant stickering and labels (e.g., food products must all have an EU-compliant label with nutritional information and ingredients listed).
  • The producer and their contact information must be specified on the packaging.
  • The packaging must specify a batch or production number.
  • Warning and safety labels must be clearly listed on the package.

You’ll also have to meet external packaging requirements, with customs forms and documentation clearly attached to the package when it’s sent to the carrier. Meeting international shipping standards will often necessitate working with a 3PL that can handle those additional requirements without extra costs.

Best practices

Your next steps will depend on which Amazon EU market you’re breaking into. However, there are some general tasks to complete for Amazon compliance regardless of your target segment:

  • Get verified: You must be a verified seller on the Amazon marketplace where you want to sell, so make this your first priority.
  • Register for VAT: Either sign up with a third-party company to manage your tax obligations or let Amazon handle it. You’ll have six months to register for VAT, but you’ll have to appoint a tax representative right away.
  • Designate someone who’s responsible for compliance: Formerly, you only needed a responsible person to sell on Amazon for CE-marked items. However, as of March 31, 2024, it’s required for all products. Amazon recommends third parties to provide this service via Seller Central, or you can find your own.
  • Research compliance for your specific product: Amazon will give you a list of elements you need, such as product safety images, warning labels, and energy efficiency labels. However, consider arranging an audit of your products, manufacturing process, and packaging up front to avoid surprises.
  • Upload all data to Seller Central: Amazon makes it easy to upload product safety images and relevant compliance data. Complete this task as quickly as possible.
  • Use FBA or a 3PL to manage international trade: Ensure your packaging is prepared for your intended market to prevent costly returns and customs issues, even if you’re shipping items to the EU in bulk. A service like Amazon Freight will drastically cut costs and complexity compared to managing everything yourself, so look into options and find the right partner.

These steps will carry you far towards EU compliance on Amazon. However, if you sell electronics, food, or toys, there will be extra steps.

Wrapping up — Follow the rules for a smooth launch on Amazon’s European market

Amazon offers easy access to marketplaces around the globe, and with shipping available to 27 countries from eight stores, Europe is one of the largest. It’s also relatively easy to expand from one EU market to another since the EU Commission harmonizes regulatory requirements across countries, meaning you’ll primarily only have to worry about differences in shipping labels and VAT. Start with an audit to determine your compliance requirements and lean on our best practices to ensure you abide by the rules and make it easier to branch out into international markets.