An Importer of Record (IOR) is the authorised agent or legal entity responsible for importing goods or services from another country into their jurisdiction without the end user’s involvement.
In recent years, social media has become a popular platform for selling goods and services. As such, IOR is essential when conducting international transactions through these platforms. Most of these products are typical via a drop shipping business model.
Social media platforms can help engage your audience and advertise products and services to a specific market. It can also open new networking opportunities and increase trade relations.
However, with the increasingly stringent data privacy regulations and a rise in false claims and misleading information, trusting a compromised source of service or product via social media could potentially damage your company’s reputation or infringe on non-compliance issues.
Data privacy and policy compliance are even more rigorous in regulated sectors such as healthcare, finance, insurance, and governance. While companies may have control over their internal processes, using IOR services can ensure social media compliance for international relations.
Selling through social media platforms such as Facebook (Meta), Instagram and WhatsApp continues to gain prominence globally, especially with the younger generation. But how safe is it to transact commerce online through these mediums?
Social media demands compliance with specific policies, regulations, terms, and conditions against which your business is subject to termination and legal actions taken against you, and so is the case even with imported goods sold via social media. But how do IORs relate to social media?
Customs regulations are in place to ensure that imported goods and services comply with local regulatory requirements, such as safety standards, quality, or taxes.
When placing an import request online, you may not have the trust and confidence of the product owner, but you know that you can trust the importation service provider.
For example, you order a product from an e-commerce site shared on social media, but the item is shipped from a store abroad. While you may be unsure of the manufacturer’s origin, you want to believe that the seller has verified compliance with the importation terms and conditions.
You also have an agreement with the seller on what should happen if your expectations are unmet and if you disagree with the terms and conditions, you can opt out. Hence, custom laws, policies and regulations are meant to ensure customer satisfaction and safety for the end consumer.
The international trade rule may still be unclear when it comes to digital trade, but meeting existing inventory principles, practices, and standards is critical in international business, and IORs can help with ensuring compliance.
We have transitioned from the old international trade rules to digital trade across multiple social media platforms. While government agencies embrace technology, they are also careful to protect the partners involved in social media transactions, hence the introduction of data governance and privacy regulations.
Since digital trade is data intensive and most processes are conducted online, from electronic document processing to electronic compliance and payment, the introduction of digital trade principles defines international trade relations. Digital trade principles are standards to ensure a secure and responsible exchange of digital goods and services in a global economy. Here are some core principles of providing guidance for countries when establishing their policies related to electronic commerce:
Digital trade should be open, fair, transparent, and non-discriminatory. Governments need to avoid imposing unnecessary restrictions or burdens on cross-border data flows or digital transactions that could impede the free flow of information online.
To protect data consumer privacy, businesses must take security measures when electronically collecting, storing, and sharing personal data across borders. Companies must also adhere to international standards such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enforced in 2018.
Countries must develop regulations and statutes that protect intellectual property rights while ensuring access to creative works is made available at reasonable prices for consumers worldwide. This includes copyright laws which allow creators of original content such as music or books to receive royalties whenever their work is shared commercially over the internet.
Digital markets can become concentrated quickly due to network effects – meaning large tech firms can dominate and monopolise an industry after reaching a specific size with little competition.
To keep these markets competitive, countries must have clear anti-monopoly rules which prevent dominant players from abusing their market power through predatory pricing strategies or other unfair practices against competitors.
With the digital trade at play, transactions and regulatory requirements are based on data security, digital trade principles, data governance, mutual agreement on right and wrong, business trust and electronic documents processing.
Digital trade barriers are restrictions imposed by governments on the flow of goods, services, and data across borders. They can take many forms, such as tariffs or taxes on digital products; customs regulations that limit international e-commerce; laws that require local storage of customer data or restrict cross-border transfers of personal information; and censorship policies that block access to specific websites.
Tariffs – Governments can impose high import duties or taxes on digital products sold over the internet to protect domestic industries from foreign competition.
Data localisation – Laws requiring companies to store customer and business data within a country’s borders can be costly for international businesses.
Censorship – Governments may censor online content deemed objectionable or harmful, blocking users’ access to specific websites.
Privacy/security rules – Regulations governing the collection, use and transfer of personal data across borders often vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, making it difficult for international companies to comply with all applicable laws in each country they operate.
Countries involved in digital trade mutually agree on what is considered proper between them, guided by digital trade principles. However, trading internationally through ecommerce and social media is still challenging due to the following issues:
Lack of trust: Consumers may be wary of making purchases online due to a lack of confidence in the seller, especially if unfamiliar. This can make customers reluctant to provide their financial information or make payments online.
Cultural differences: Different countries have different cultural norms and expectations, leading to misunderstandings, miscommunications, and potential conflicts in online dealings; consider Alibaba as an example. Cultural differences can also affect how customers interact with vendors or suppliers and perceive the products or services offered.
Data privacy concerns: Customers hesitate to enter personal or sensitive data into an e-commerce site if they have concerns about how it will be used or stored securely, mainly when dealing with sensitive information like credit card numbers and addresses.
Payment systems disparities: Different countries have different payment methods available, which makes it difficult for global e-commerce sites to cater to multiple markets at once; this often requires extra steps on behalf of both customer and business alike, adding complexity and time constraints where none should exist.
Infrastructure Issues: Digital trade requires reliable infrastructure and secure networks for businesses to send data quickly and securely across long distances without interruption or loss of data integrity. In developing countries, there are still inadequate telecommunications systems that limit the ability of businesses to engage in digital commerce activities internationally or domestically.
Legal Barriers: Lack of clarity around international laws regulating digital trade can hinder its growth and development and create uncertainty for businesses engaging in online cross-border transactions.
Different countries have varying tax regulations governing ecommerce activities, making it difficult for businesses operating in multiple jurisdictions to comply with all applicable rules and regulations.
Regulatory Restrictions: these vary all over the world and industry sector, which makes it incredibly difficult for businesses operating cross border ecommerce platforms to comply with different regulations depending on the customer’s geographical location.
The fast-paced technology has led to the automation of significant importation processes such as compliance. IORs can access the dedicated portals and submit documentation and proof of compliance for required certifications and permits. Goods in transit can be tracked from source to destination through real-time tracking and intelligent routing, which helps identify the most cost-effective route for your shipment.
Employing an IOR can be helpful in the following ways:
In digital trade, IORs help to facilitate cross-border transactions and ensure compliance with any existing digital trade principles between the trading countries. By providing an efficient platform for businesses to conduct international trade online, IORs reduce the time and cost of traditional trading methods while increasing transparency and security.
This helps to create a level playing field between small businesses and instils trust that may not have access to the same resources as large corporations or multinational organisations.
In addition, by offering services such as electronic document processing (export/import document preparation assistance, product origin certification guidance), warehouse logistics support, online transactions, and compliance verification, the IOR can help bridge the gap between those who are digitally connected and those who are not yet associated due to lack of resources or knowledge.
Reputable IORs have established legal entities in nearly all parts of the world. The legal entity, coupled with years of experience in IOR service provision, provides the upper hand in identifying legal and customs requirements and any other requirement that may be a barrier to a successful importation.
In addition, with the automated business process, IORs can generate an audit trail for the processes, transactions and parties involved as proof of transparency and accountability. Hence, inconsistencies would be unheard of, and even some cultural differences would finally dissolve.
IORs, like Blackthorne, provide technical expertise and global supply chain logistics for IT equipment. Blackthorne has a wealth of experience in IOR and global supply chain logistics and can help in quality assurance for safety, product requirements specification and packaging to guarantee customer satisfaction.
Technology continues to shape international trade and open new ways of conducting business. While strict rules and regulations, plus cases of insecurity, limit some industries and threaten privacy and confidentiality, digital trade is here to stay.
It’s time to embrace technology and stay ahead to solve problems before they exist. By preparing, you want to cope with technology, legal and policy changes with minimal adjustments.
Partnering with a reputable IOR, such as Blackthorne International Transport, will keep you ahead of technology and allow you to engage in international trade seamlessly.