Importing a Thermal viewing device within the EU.

Erik Hamburger

Well-Known Member
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.
 

willie_gunn

Well-Known Member
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/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/392470/strategic-export-control-consolidated20141231.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/eurasia/en/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)
 

Scrooloose

Well-Known Member
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.
 
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Scrooloose

Well-Known Member
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.
 

willie_gunn

Well-Known Member
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.
 

ELMER FUDD

Well-Known Member
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
 

Noah

Well-Known Member
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
 

lister

Well-Known Member
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:)
 

Erik Hamburger

Well-Known Member
Thank you for the excellent contributions.

I have looked into these issues in more details and can now confirm the following:

1. You do NOT require an import license from BIS to import a Thermal Viewer with a refresh rate above 9hz. So you are free to buy one on the open market, and have it posted to your UK address, anywhere in the EU zone, without any legal restrictions.
2. You DO require an export license from BIS to export a Thermal Viewer with a refresh rate above 9hz. If the export is for the purpose of a warranty claim you will have no difficulties at all in getting such a license and it is free of charge. The only drawback is that it will take approx. 20 days.
3. As far as Warranty claims are concerned, a UK Agent does NOT have to honour the manufacturers Warranty from an item purchased abroad, you have to send it back to the retailer in the country of purchase. (So you will need an Export license)

I would conclude by saying that if you are a professional stalker and use the equipment daily I recommend you buy it from a UK supplier and have the peace-of-mind of fast back-up and service, but pay way-over the top.
But if you are a recreational user and would like to save 20-25% on a piece of kit (scopes, NV, Thermal, Bino's) that costs thousands, contact your retailer and ask for a big discount, quote at what price you can buy it elsewhere, and give them the opportunity to price-match or at least meet you halfway.
If they are not prepared to price-match or compromise, or don't reply, take your business elsewhere.
 

Clive Ward

Well-Known Member
Hi Erik,

Interestingly from the Dutch governments website...

"Since the Netherlands control list for military goods is in fact the Dutch language version of the Common Military List of the European Union, consult the site of the Council of the European Union where the list can be consulted in English."

No I haven't trawled through it but I imagine it's the same as our list and would also restrict export of focal plane arrays above 9 Hz.


Cheers





Clive
 

willie_gunn

Well-Known Member
Hi Erik,

Interestingly from the Dutch governments website...

"Since the Netherlands control list for military goods is in fact the Dutch language version of the Common Military List of the European Union, consult the site of the Council of the European Union where the list can be consulted in English."

No I haven't trawled through it but I imagine it's the same as our list and would also restrict export of focal plane arrays above 9 Hz.


Cheers

Clive
Well, the EU Military List can be found here: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2012:085:0001:0036:EN:PDF

When it comes to equipment like thermal imaging, the main difference between the Military List and the Export Control List is that the former is designed to specifically cover military items whereas the latter is far broader, covering items that may have both a peaceful and a military use (known as dual use). The relevance in this case is that the EU Military List is only interested in thermal imaging equipment that, to quote, is "specially designed for military use" - see ML15.d on page 25.

So I doubt that a thermal imaging camera specifically aimed at the civilian market would be covered by the EU Military List, whereas an army surplus thermal imaging camera for example would be.

Leaving the Military List to one side, the EU Export Control List can be found here: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2009:134:0001:0269:en:PDF

This, as said above, details more general items that may require a license or some other form of control in order to be exported from the EU.

If you are sad enough to look at this document then you need only search for "6A003" to get to the section on thermal imaging cameras, i.e. the same classification code as I highlighted in the post above. It's on pages 185-188.

There's a lot of technical stuff here that TBH I can't follow, but of note is that cameras with a maximum frame rate equal to or less than 9 Hz are still excluded, as they were on the UK Military List.

My guess (and it is just that) is that the thermal equipment we're talking about here also falls under one or more of the other exclusions, but the only people who can tell you that for sure are the manufacturers.

It is also a moot point as to whether exporting from the Netherlands to the UK actually constitutes an EU export, unless the intention is to then ship it from the UK to a country outside of the EU.
 
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rick6point5

Well-Known Member
Slightly off topic, but as a Dutchman born in Amsterdam and grown up there in the 60's and 70's I can confirm that you are absolutely correct! ;)
Je heel veel geluk, I was not there during those decades! but shortly after, always enjoy that city every time I visit, het is mooi, my partner is from Nijmegan.
 

Clive Ward

Well-Known Member
Hi Willie,

Good info there.

But the way I read the Dutch legislation it is that items excluded from dual use and military list items are treated the same, i.e. the export is controlled anywhere outside of the Netherlands including EU member states. Movement to a Benelux country doesn't have the same level of control but the movement still needs to be documented and reported.

It's not quite clear what the penalties are but for private individuals it appears to be monetary, i.e. seizing the money involved in the export. I would have thought there would be other specific EU laws to cover any intended nefarious use of the equipment with associated harsher penalties.

I think the only people who can answer this categorically though would be the Dutch export controls dept.

I'm sure it will all become a bit of a moot point once/if the Euro settles down.


Cheers





Clive
 

willie_gunn

Well-Known Member
Hi Willie,

It's not quite clear what the penalties are but for private individuals it appears to be monetary, i.e. seizing the money involved in the export. I would have thought there would be other specific EU laws to cover any intended nefarious use of the equipment with associated harsher penalties.

I think the only people who can answer this categorically though would be the Dutch export controls dept.
Clive

I agree. If there's any doubt whatsoever an individual would do well to contact the Dutch Central Import and Exporting Service, whose contact details can be found here: Export controls of strategic goods | Issue | Government.nl

Whilst there's obviously a monetary aspect to the penalties, breach of export controls is typically a criminal offence as well. There's an interesting article about it here: http://www.inhouselawyer.co.uk/index.php/fraud-and-corporate-crime/10257-sanctions-and-export-controls-ignorance-is-not-bliss
 

exmarksman9870

Well-Known Member
could some one post a link to the websites that ship to the uk from the eurozone then,,, im after a bargain phton xt >>>>>>>
 

Clive Ward

Well-Known Member
Clive

I agree. If there's any doubt whatsoever an individual would do well to contact the Dutch Central Import and Exporting Service, whose contact details can be found here: Export controls of strategic goods | Issue | Government.nl

Whilst there's obviously a monetary aspect to the penalties, breach of export controls is typically a criminal offence as well. There's an interesting article about it here: http://www.inhouselawyer.co.uk/index.php/fraud-and-corporate-crime/10257-sanctions-and-export-controls-ignorance-is-not-bliss
Hi Willie,

Yep it's an interesting subject.

In the course of our business we get lots of 'check' enquiries for export delivery or for UK delivery but making certain that we are aware they are ultimately for export; which some I am sure are instigated by branches of HM Govt. I've also been to meetings in very nice London hotels with 'potential customers' which are probably along the same lines. And rightly so. It is a very useful strategic item and we have to realise that it has to be controlled. To put it into perspective the US Military consider Night Vision and Thermal Imaging as the most important technology on the battlefield.

On the point of importing, while there isn't any licence required, we have had imports seized and investigated by Special Branch and only released once they were happy that everything was above board.

So it is being controlled and indeed monitored in both directions.


Cheers





Clive
 

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