How to Verify if a Supplier Can Make Safe And Compliant Products

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Far from all manufacturers have the capability to manufacture compliant products. Even fewer suppliers can offer a full set of compliance documents, such as test reports and technical files.

So how do you verify if a supplier has the right compliance documentation, or at least the capability to manufacture compliant products?

Many importers assume that the solution is as simple as asking for a test report, but as I explain in this guide, the reality is far more complex and risky.

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Option A: Ask for a lab test report

The most straight forward way to assess if a supplier has experience manufacturing products in compliance with certain regulations is to ask for a test report. Any factory should be willing to share their test reports, assuming their products have actually passed lab testing at some point.

Here are some examples of test reports you should request:


  • EMC Directive (EU)
  • RoHS Directive (EU)
  • Low Voltage Directive (EU)
  • FCC (USA)
  • UL (USA)


  • REACH (EU)
  • California Proposition 65 (USA)
  • OEKO Tex Standard 100 (International)

Children’s products

  • EN 71 (EU)

Test Report Checklist

You should never take a test report at face value. Use this checklist to assess if the test report is actually relevant:

Manufacturer: The name of the manufacturer must match. It’s not unheard of that factories provide test reports held by subcontractors or even unrelated companies. Clearly, a test report is only relevant if it’s provided by the supplier you intend to order from.

SKU: You can only use the test report if the SKU listed in the test report is matching the SKU on the product and the packaging. If not, then the test report cannot be linked to our product and is therefore not valid. That said, even in these situations the test report is still useful as a way to assess the supplier’s compliance track record.

Regulation/Standard: Clearly, the test report must correspond to all regulations and mandatory standards in your country. For example, a US standards test report is not very useful if you’re selling in the EU and vice versa. Further, it’s common that suppliers can only provide test reports covering one or two mandatory standards or regulations, but not all. As such, additional testing may be required.

Testing company: There are hundreds of testing companies in Mainland China without accreditation in the EU or the US. While accreditation is not mandatory for all products, test reports issued by such companies may not be accepted by government agencies and retailers. I recommend that you only accept test reports issued by companies like Bureau Veritas, Intertek, Eurofins, UL, SGS, TUV, QIMA and other well-known firms.

Factory in China

Option B: Review their page strongly encourages listed suppliers to share all sorts of company information and qualifications. Today it’s very common to find manufacturers displaying test reports on their company page and product listings.

While you cannot use these test reports, they are still extremely useful when assessing whether a supplier is capable of manufacturing compliant products or not.

A supplier with a few test reports on their Alibaba page is far more likely to have the required capability, as compared to one that doesn’t.

1. Not every manufacturer can produce compliant products

When sourcing suppliers, you can never assume that a supplier has the capability to make products in compliance with American or European product safety standards. While the overall situation is getting better, the vast majority of factories in Mainland China (and other low-cost manufacturing countries) don’t have the capability to design and manufacture ‘compliant products’.

There are a few reasons this can be the case:

Main Markets: Not every factory is exporting to the US or Europe. Some factories are primarily making products for the domestic market or perhaps Southeast Asia. Such suppliers have no incentive to invest time and money into EU or US product compliance. That said, they’ll still accept your order, but beware.

OEM Manufacturer: Big companies send a complete set of bill of materials and datasheets – with ‘built-in’ product compliance – to their contract manufacturers. The factory’s job is only to assemble the product according to the documentation. They don’t need to even take compliance into consideration and therefore they don’t have the in-house expertise to design a compliant product.

2. ‘Compliant suppliers’ don’t exist

Product test reports and technical documentation are only applicable on a product basis. For example, an entire factory cannot be ‘CE certified’ or ‘CPSIA compliant’. It doesn’t work that way.

One common mistake buyers make is to assume that a supplier exclusively manufactures compliant products simply because they have a couple of old test reports on display. That’s not the case, as the default is often a non-compliant product.

A few years ago one of our European customers made this mistake when placing an order from a new furniture supplier. While our investigation did indicate that the supplier had a strong fire safety compliance track record – the buyer failed to explicitly communicate that their batch had to be compliant with certain EU fire safety standards.

Naturally, Chinese suppliers don’t ask more questions than necessary and proceeded with mass production of their ‘default product’ – which is anything but compliant with EU furniture fire safety standards.

3. Manufacturers are not compliance experts or consultants

A few years back we worked with another European customer who had proudly identified one of IKEA’s manufacturers of LED bulb lights, somewhere in Ningbo. The client, therefore, assumed that this fact proved that the Ningbo factory did have the expertise to manufacture LED bulb lights in compliance with all mandatory directives.

The only other conclusion would be a grand conspiracy – that of IKEA is secretly selling non-compliant LED lights.

Neither assumption turned out to be correct.

After contacting the supplier, it quickly turned out that they didn’t have a single test report. This was later explained by the fact that they – like most other OEM manufacturers – rely on their buyers to provide a ready-made and compliant product specification.

Take something like the Low Voltage Directive for example. Companies like IKEA design for compliance on a PCB and Bill of Materials level. They don’t send a sketch and hope that the manufacturer will somehow work it out.

The point I want to get to is that a manufacturer may have big buyers and assemble world-class products – compliant with every safety standards there is – without ever giving a second thought to it. After all, their job is to assemble, test and pack.

Manufacturers are generally not compliance experts. While some do have some basic knowledge concerning product regulations in their industry, you should not expect or even listen to advise from your supplier.

4. You can’t use your suppliers existing product test reports

There are two problems with using an existing test report. First, batch testing is often mandatory. Even if the test report is issued by the same factory, valid for that specific SKU and covering all mandatory standards – it’s still not applicable to your production run.

The second issue is that it’s extremely rare to find test reports where everything ads up. If the manufacturer is not matching, or the SKU is different – or, which is often the case, the test report is not valid for all applicable standards – then it cannot be used to prove that your product is compliant.

Because in the end, a test report is documented proof of compliance.

Using supplier test reports can be very costly, as it’s the first thing government agencies and Amazon look at.

They are fully aware that many importers, knowingly or not, request test reports of dubious value from their suppliers, hoping acceptance at face value.

Keep in mind that you will be left holding the bag if your test reports are rejected, as this effectively renders your products worthless in one swift stroke.

  • (USA & EU)

    We Help Brands & Importers With Product Compliance (US & EU)

    • Product Requirements Lists
    • Product Certification
    • Product & Packaging Labeling
    • Lab Testing


    Disclaimer: The content on this website is provided for general information only. The content includes summaries written by our team members based on publicly available information about product safety standards, labeling, documentation, testing, processes, and other product compliance related topics. However, we don’t guarantee that we cover every single relevant regulation/standard/requirement, or that the information is free from errors, or covering every single scenario and exemption. We do make mistakes from time to time. We never provide legal advice of any sort.

    Changes/Updates: Product standards and substance restrictions are subject to frequent updates and changes. In addition, new regulations, standards, and/or requirements may also become effective at any time. We don’t update our articles whenever new standards/regulations/rules are added or changed. We recommend that you consult a lab testing company or other professional to get the latest information about mandatory standards/regulations in your market, country, or state. Lab testing companies generally stay up to date on new and updated standards and regulations.

    National/State-Level Standards/Regulations: Many articles don't cover all European national and US state standards, regulations, and requirements. We recommend that you consult a testing company or other professional to confirm all relevant (and current) national/state level standards and regulations.
  • 5 Responses to “How to Verify if a Supplier Can Make Safe And Compliant Products

    1. Cost Avoidance Vs Cost Reduction: What's The Difference? - Oboloo at 5:40 am

      […] with compliant suppliers and managing the risks help companies save on costly […]

    2. The Importance of Choosing Suppliers with a Strong Background | Offhanded Dribble at 12:10 am

      […] As a businessperson, you should aim at the supply capabilities of the prospective supplier to ensure that you don’t get many complaints from the customers. Quality suppliers should be able to deal with products that meet the specified requirements consistently. […]

    3. Eli Richardson at 5:57 am

      I’m glad you talked about how when choosing a manufacturing company, you should ask them to make a product, and to share with you it’s test results. A friend is looking into possible ideas to fabricate a product, but he doesn’t know how to choose a reliable manufacturer. I think this article will be helpful to him. Thank you for the tips on how to verify if a supplier can make a product.

    4. Max at 6:10 am

      Hi – interesting article, especially since I have been having problems – supplier sold me products that are now on a european recall list RAPEX alert – I obvs stop selling them immediately but what about all the costs and stock I am sitting on, would alibaba need to refund me those orders as I have been sold unsafe products?! Thanks

      1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 10:08 am

        Hi Max,

        I don’t think Alibaba offers any such insurance or refund guarantee. They are a marketplace, not an exporter.

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