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Thread: Importing a Thermal viewing device within the EU.

  1. #1

    Importing a Thermal viewing device within the EU.

    Please may I ask for comments on this situation and specifically an answer to my two questions if you are in the know:

    I have decided to purchase a thermal viewing device and found the item is available online from several shops in The Netherlands (including postage to the UK) for around 20-25% LESS than the best price I managed to negotiate from UK retailers. The thermal viewer has a 'refresh rate' of 30hz. The Dutch retailers have confirmed to me in writing that there are no legal restrictions selling me this device.

    However, a UK retailer who has tried to win my business insist it is illegal to import a thermal viewer with a refresh rate above 9hz into the UK and that I will need prior import consent from the UK Government as it is a 'controlled item'.
    They say that should there ever be an issue with a unit purchased outside the UK, I will need to apply to BIS for an export licence, showing proof of original legal export, before I can send controlled goods for repair or otherwise, as according to them the official UK Importer/Distributor will not honour any warranty claims.

    My questions:
    1. Is a thermal viewer of 30hz a controlled item and do I therefore require an import license?
    2. Under EU Law, surely a warranty claim for an item purchased in another EU country should be honoured by the UK Importer/Distributor?

    Thank you.
    • Do not be seduced by the marketing-men....

  2. #2
    SD Regular willie_gunn's Avatar
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    On point 1, my guess is that it is as much about exporting from the Netherlands as it is importing into the UK.

    I don't know about Dutch export law, but generally thermal image cameras are controlled items, classified under ECCN code 6A003.b.4.b

    You can see them on the UK Strategic Export Control List here: https://www.gov.uk/government/upload...ed20141231.pdf, specifically at page 218-219.

    You'll also see that:

    Note 3: 6A003.b.4.b does not control imaging cameras having any of the following: a. a maximum frame rate equal to or less than 9 Hz

    There is a bit more about the distinction between these two on FLIR's website: http://www.flir.com/thermography/eur...view/?id=31106

    So if you buy a camera with a refresh rate above 9 Hz you are likely to face a lot of hassle on export, even for warranty/repair, as you'll need to apply for licences.

    Regarding question 2, I would be very doubtful as to whether an item bought direct from the Netherlands would be fixed by the UK importer, even more so if they were simply agents or distributors and not part of the same company. After all, the profit from the sale of the item will have been recognised in the Netherlands whereas the costs of warranty are being borne by the UK. More importantly, any UK-specific tests or warranties may not apply to an item purchased in the Netherlands. Of course we all know the grey market exists, but manufacturers do their utmost to prevent consumers taking advantage of the ability to buy products in one country (with lower profit margins) and then expect the same level of warranty as in their home market.

    There were some changes in European Law last week that affect distance selling. See, for example: Can I return an item bought from another EU country? - Which?

    Personally I'd suck up the price difference and buy from the UK distributor. That way if anything that goes wrong you're covered.

    Of course the above is just my interpretation - although I work in the international trade space I am not an export/import lawyer or trade/customs broker. I'd recommend you contact one if you're seriously considering the movement of any controlled items, or at least check with HMRC (Classify imports and exports using the UK Trade Tariff - Detailed guidance - GOV.UK)
    O wad some Power the giftie gie us to see oursels as ithers see us!

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Erik Hamburger View Post
    Please may I ask for comments on this situation and specifically an answer to my two questions if you are in the know:

    I have decided to purchase a thermal viewing device and found the item is available online from several shops in The Netherlands (including postage to the UK) for around 20-25% LESS than the best price I managed to negotiate from UK retailers. The thermal viewer has a 'refresh rate' of 30hz. The Dutch retailers have confirmed to me in writing that there are no legal restrictions selling me this device.

    However, a UK retailer who has tried to win my business insist it is illegal to import a thermal viewer with a refresh rate above 9hz into the UK and that I will need prior import consent from the UK Government as it is a 'controlled item'.
    They say that should there ever be an issue with a unit purchased outside the UK, I will need to apply to BIS for an export licence, showing proof of original legal export, before I can send controlled goods for repair or otherwise, as according to them the official UK Importer/Distributor will not honour any warranty claims.

    My questions:
    1. Is a thermal viewer of 30hz a controlled item and do I therefore require an import license?
    2. Under EU Law, surely a warranty claim for an item purchased in another EU country should be honoured by the UK Importer/Distributor?

    Thank you.
    The EU is a common market and there are supposed to be zero barriers to trade within it. So you're not technically exporting/importing anything if you move goods within the EU. I guess there must be exemptions to this, but I doubt you need a licence/permission to own the aforementioned item in the UK, then I wouldn't have thought that movement of it would be controlled within the EU.

    Aside from that, your question about warranties depends on whether the distributor is the manufacturer/pan-European distributor of the product, or a local entity. If the UK office is a direct offshoot of the manufacturer, then they do have to process your warranty. If the UK importer is a independent distribution company that handles a variety of brands, then they don't have to service your warranty, unless their contract with the manufacturer states that this is the case.
    Last edited by Scrooloose; 03-02-2015 at 13:54.

  4. #4
    I should add to that, that you'll still have a warranty with the party you purchase from, but it would probably be a return to base service.

  5. #5
    SD Regular willie_gunn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrooloose View Post
    The EU is a common market and there are supposed to be zero barriers to trade within it. So you're not technically exporting/importing anything if you move goods within the EU. I guess there must be exemptions to this, but I doubt you need a licence/permission to own the aforementioned item in the UK, then I wouldn't have thought that movement of it would be controlled within the EU.
    Not strictly true. The free movement of goods within the EU is about the removal of customs duties and quantitative restrictions (i.e. quotas) on the import and export of goods, thereby allowing free trade, but individual countries can still prohibit the movement or private ownership of goods when these are justified by general, non-economic considerations (e.g. public morality, public policy or public security).

    The items being discussed here (thermal image cameras with a refresh rate above 9 Hz) are controlled products, at least so far as export, so we know that restrictions on their movement apply.

    It is the same reason that the laws on firearms, knives, etc can be different across the EU.

    As I said in my first post, if in doubt, ask a qualified lawyer or customs broker. Don't rely on responses on an internet forum to have any legal standing.
    O wad some Power the giftie gie us to see oursels as ithers see us!

  6. #6
    We used to deal with F.L.I.R USA and were informed by them that all F.L.I.R products had to be used under licence to FLIR.

    If you contact FOCUS 2000 in the UK they will be able to answer any questions you have relating to thermal imaging products

    Focus 2000 Infrared Ltd

  7. #7
    Whats 'LEGAL' in Holland or for the Dutch always seemed totally illegal everywhere else...

  8. #8
    I imported one from Holland last week, no problems so far. It was a 30 Hz refresh rate. I would have saved another 100 if I'd waited till this week. The exporter didn't mention any export restrictions. Since they are on sale in retail outlets in the UK why would there be any import restrictions

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Noah View Post
    I imported one from Holland last week, no problems so far. It was a 30 Hz refresh rate. I would have saved another 100 if I'd waited till this week. The exporter didn't mention any export restrictions. Since they are on sale in retail outlets in the UK why would there be any import restrictions
    sorry that sounds to much like common sense

  10. #10
    So theoretically you should be able to pop over there, buy one and walk back through customs with it ?

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