http://opalkelly.com/

Author Topic: Selling circuitboards legally  (Read 943 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Dajgoro

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 262
  • Country: hr
    • hackaday.io
Selling circuitboards legally
« on: June 20, 2017, 03:38:47 AM »
Hi

I've been wondering what is the situation when selling electronic boards online (in house developed).
I've googled the topic and found all sorts of replies, but nothing to give a definitive answer.
So for start, lets say I sell things trough a company, in fact I can do that from a company located in Croatia (EU).
So lets say I make a company webstore that sells the boards worldwide and gives the buyer a proper invoice that is taxed.
Reading this post on sparkfun: https://www.sparkfun.com/tutorials/398
It says its ok to sell sub assemblies. So would then that allow sales of development boards, shield boards, etc... ?
Also, since its the IoT age, can such boards contain RF stuff like bluetooth, wifi, NFC/RFID, and use 433MHz transceivers?
Can I then just say that the boards are not certified, and only allowed for hobby or development use?
Also, is there a difference if the sold boards are open source, or if the schematics and documents are only allowed for buyers?
 

Offline janoc

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 1633
  • Country: fr
Re: Selling circuitboards legally
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2017, 05:23:42 AM »
First, don't rely for this, which is essentially a legal question, on tutorial like from Sparkfun. US rules do not apply in Europe! In fact, the system is completely different in EU.

Assuming you handle your business stuff (tax, prices, business license, etc.) which are controlled by your government, then there are rules you need to obey when bringing a product to the market. That's mainly the CE marking and the WEEE directive (electronic waste). These are EU-wide but you need to consult your local laws to understand how exactly they were transposed into Croatian law - it differs, e.g. the German implementation is infamous for its bureaucracy and rigidity.

Quote
It says its ok to sell sub assemblies. So would then that allow sales of development boards, shield boards, etc... ?

That's US, doesn't apply in EU. That said, CE marking is self-certified, so you need to supply the declaration of conformity for each product - basically saying that gizmo XYZ complies with all the relevant norms - and then you can put the CE mark on your product and sell it. However, you are legally responsible for it, if there is any trouble or the authorities decide to spot check (e.g. the German ones do), you need to have documentation to justify your steps. One way to get it is to do the EMC (and any other required) testing at an accredited lab. Or you can even do it yourself, assuming you have the relevant skills and equipment.

AFAIK, items that are meant to be integrated into other products (modules, etc.) don't have to be certified but then they are not meant to be sold to end users. This is a grey area, IMO. That was why either Sparkfun or Adafruit started to certify their products, even though strictly speaking they may not have to.

Quote
Also, since its the IoT age, can such boards contain RF stuff like bluetooth, wifi, NFC/RFID, and use 433MHz transceivers?

AFAIK, not relevant, you still have to obey the same rules. Just when the board has RF, there are more and stricter rules to follow.

Quote
Can I then just say that the boards are not certified, and only allowed for hobby or development use?

No. You can only sell them as components meant to be integrated into something else, not as final product. The "hobby or development use" plays no role here.  As components they may be excepted from some of the paperwork, but check your local laws before you do it. It is not very clearly defined and if the regulator comes to a different conclusion than you as to whether your gadget is a completed product or a component, you will have problems.

Quote
Also, is there a difference if the sold boards are open source, or if the schematics and documents are only allowed for buyers?

From a regulatory point of view there is zero difference, AFAIK. The neighbors TV receiving a ton of interference really doesn't care whether the noisy gadget causing it is open source or not. If you have sold it, you will likely get in hot water with the authorities either way. This is only your business decision.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2017, 05:31:25 AM by janoc »
 

Online mdszy

  • Supporter
  • ****
  • Posts: 118
  • Country: us
  • pixie wrangler in training!
    • szy.io
Re: Selling circuitboards legally
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2017, 05:35:34 AM »
I would honestly suggest consulting with a lawyer. EU laws are going to be entirely different from US laws and you're asking about things which involve a number of different regulatory bodies (tax authority, trade regulations, wireless radio communications regulations...) and if someone here gives you incorrect advice which you follow, you could be in deep legal water.
YouTube Channel, Patreon, Twitter, Hackaday.io Page
Pixie Wrangler in Training
 

Offline Dajgoro

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 262
  • Country: hr
    • hackaday.io
Re: Selling circuitboards legally
« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2017, 08:38:08 AM »
Thansk for the replies, seems I'll have to consult somebody.
Googling local law gave me 0 results, closest thing that I could find was e-waste management.
But then again, in such a small country that does not produce almost any hardware, its gonna be difficult to get proper info.

But lets say I get the local rules sorted out, and I can sell it EU-wide. What happens if a US citizen decides to order it online?
Who's fault is it then if something goes wrong?
 

Online mdszy

  • Supporter
  • ****
  • Posts: 118
  • Country: us
  • pixie wrangler in training!
    • szy.io
Re: Selling circuitboards legally
« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2017, 08:59:29 AM »
But lets say I get the local rules sorted out, and I can sell it EU-wide. What happens if a US citizen decides to order it online?
Who's fault is it then if something goes wrong?

What do you mean, "if something goes wrong?"
YouTube Channel, Patreon, Twitter, Hackaday.io Page
Pixie Wrangler in Training
 

Offline Dajgoro

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 262
  • Country: hr
    • hackaday.io
Re: Selling circuitboards legally
« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2017, 11:43:30 AM »
What do you mean, "if something goes wrong?"
Buyer in US buys item, and for some reason he causes it to catch fire.
 

Online mdszy

  • Supporter
  • ****
  • Posts: 118
  • Country: us
  • pixie wrangler in training!
    • szy.io
Re: Selling circuitboards legally
« Reply #6 on: June 20, 2017, 11:51:55 AM »
What do you mean, "if something goes wrong?"
Buyer in US buys item, and for some reason he causes it to catch fire.
Then that's their fault? They can't sue you for that sort of thing or anything.
YouTube Channel, Patreon, Twitter, Hackaday.io Page
Pixie Wrangler in Training
 

Offline Someone

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 1547
  • Country: au
Re: Selling circuitboards legally
« Reply #7 on: June 20, 2017, 11:55:24 AM »
The key thing you need to understand is "importer" this is where the responsibility shifts from one jurisdiction to another. You only need to comply to your local laws unless you have a presence in the other regions.
 

Offline MosherIV

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 659
  • Country: gb
Re: Selling circuitboards legally
« Reply #8 on: June 20, 2017, 07:33:35 PM »
Quote
Buyer in US buys item, and for some reason he causes it to catch fire.
As everyone says, depends on the laws in the country that you are selling in.

The point I would like to make is : even sub assemblies must be fit for purpose and safe to use, as far as a component can be.

If however, the fire was caused by the end user miss-using the component and therefore causing the fire - then it is not the suppliers fault.
By miss-using I mean pushed beyond specification or used in a way that is not recommended by seller.
 

Online blueskull

  • Supporter
  • ****
  • Posts: 6478
  • Country: cn
  • Final year EE PhD
Re: Selling circuitboards legally
« Reply #9 on: June 20, 2017, 07:56:41 PM »
I would suggest you to start an off shore at one of the tax heavens or in China or Russia or southeast Asia, anywhere that's likely to be not friendly with your local government, or will protect any businesses that can provide tax and employment.
You can set bank account to pay to there and ship form there, and you only ship in large batches to there.

Due to the legal barrier, you pretty much can sell anything without having to worry about getting into trouble.
SIGSEGV is inevitable if you try to talk more than you know.
 

Offline Red Squirrel

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 1126
  • Country: ca
Re: Selling circuitboards legally
« Reply #10 on: June 20, 2017, 08:02:17 PM »
I'd be kind of curious about this stuff myself as I would like to eventually get into selling basic electronic items once I get more proficient, still a noob now so far from that point.  Is there some blanket way of protecting yourself from any liabilities?   Like some kind of disclaimer that the item is only for decorative purpose, or something silly like that?

It's actually infuriating since China can sell all sorts of dangerous goods to us, or even certified ones that still catch on fire, but we can't sell locally or even to them because of all the regulations and liability risk etc.
 

Online blueskull

  • Supporter
  • ****
  • Posts: 6478
  • Country: cn
  • Final year EE PhD
Re: Selling circuitboards legally
« Reply #11 on: June 20, 2017, 08:23:23 PM »
Is there some blanket way of protecting yourself from any liabilities?   Like some kind of disclaimer that the item is only for decorative purpose, or something silly like that?

If that can be done, anyone will do that and the law will be of no use. In China that's called king's terms, and it banned by law, no matter if either part of the contract has explicitly or implicitly signed the contract.

It's actually infuriating since China can sell all sorts of dangerous goods to us, or even certified ones that still catch on fire, but we can't sell locally or even to them because of all the regulations and liability risk etc.

That's also illegal in China, but due to the vast amount of small sellers that took infinite amount of resource to hunt down, even central Chinese government doesn't have a way to protect domestic consumers, let along foreign consumers.

Imagine the cost of hunting down thousands is not hundreds of thousands mom&pop shops that has relation with local government.

One thing westerners don't understand China is that all of you guys think Chinese central government has absolute power. Which is bullshit. They can say whatever they want, and they can throw whomever they want to jail, but when it comes to massive decisions, local government has the decision.

Every local government will say they 100% support central government, but in actual execution, they will do their best to protect their own interest, which is local tax. Central government set a number of rules that no local governments give a shit. And no, they don't just say F you. They agree to do everything, and just not actually doing that. When they got the message that central government will send a special investigation group, they will pretend to do their job for a few weeks, and when the group leaves, they do whatever they did.

This also applies to counterfeit. Central government cares about people's safety and international reputation, but the manufacturers' local governments care about local tax income. Now, if you are mayor, will you hunt down local businesses that makes shit products but since 90% are sold out of province, you don's take responsibility much, but you get tax income?

The balance between local government and central government of China is actually quite interesting, and I heard similar stories quite a bit since my quite some of my family members (both parents, 2 cousins, 2 aunts and 1 uncle) work for local government of a city in China.
SIGSEGV is inevitable if you try to talk more than you know.
 

Offline janoc

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 1633
  • Country: fr
Re: Selling circuitboards legally
« Reply #12 on: June 21, 2017, 05:56:30 AM »
Thansk for the replies, seems I'll have to consult somebody.
Googling local law gave me 0 results, closest thing that I could find was e-waste management.
But then again, in such a small country that does not produce almost any hardware, its gonna be difficult to get proper info.

I believe every EU country has an official contact point for the EU-related legislation. You should be able to find one nearest to you here:
https://ec.europa.eu/info/about-european-union/organisational-structure/locations_en

They should be able to point you to both the relevant EU directives and to their implementation in your country.  Which is what ultimately matters - EU doesn't really produce laws, the directives become law only after each country transposes them into their own legal system (and thus each country has a different implementation). You need to obey the version adopted in your country (obviously), not e.g. a German one, even if the German version could be more strict in some aspects.

But lets say I get the local rules sorted out, and I can sell it EU-wide. What happens if a US citizen decides to order it online?
Who's fault is it then if something goes wrong?

Depends. If the buyer orders it from your Croatian website and you have no business presence in the US, I would say it is the problem of the buyer - they have imported goods not meant for the US market. That's not much different from someone buying the gizmo in the brick & mortar store at the corner during their vacation and then bringing it home with them in a suitcase.

That's also why is it possible to order stuff from AliExpress - if you are ordering it for yourself (aka not for resale), you are only responsible to yourself. Of course, if that gizmo sets your home one fire,  you could have problems with insurance paying out you claim when they discover the device responsible for the fire was not approved for EU market (CE marking and all that). The same if e.g. a radio module transmits on a frequency not legal in your country or transmits with more power than allowed - it will be you, the buyer, who gets in trouble, not the seller.

On the other hand, if you have a business presence in the US (a reseller, branch office, etc.) and are officially selling the goods there, then you will have to obey the US regulations and laws too (like FCC testing).

« Last Edit: June 21, 2017, 05:59:30 AM by janoc »
 
The following users thanked this post: Someone

Offline Dajgoro

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 262
  • Country: hr
    • hackaday.io
Re: Selling circuitboards legally
« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2017, 12:51:19 PM »

I believe every EU country has an official contact point for the EU-related legislation. You should be able to find one nearest to you here:
https://ec.europa.eu/info/about-european-union/organisational-structure/locations_en

They should be able to point you to both the relevant EU directives and to their implementation in your country.  Which is what ultimately matters - EU doesn't really produce laws, the directives become law only after each country transposes them into their own legal system (and thus each country has a different implementation). You need to obey the version adopted in your country (obviously), not e.g. a German one, even if the German version could be more strict in some aspects.
I'll try giving them a call.

And for the other part of the post, yes, that would make sense.
 

Online Richard Crowley

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 3165
  • Country: us
  • KE7GKP
Re: Selling circuitboards legally
« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2017, 01:20:37 PM »
I have ordered boards/kits on Tindie that came from Croatia and other formerly eastern European countries.  No different than ordering from China or Australia or England or Canada, etc.

Offer a refund if the buyer is dissatisfied and sends it back.  Otherwise its all on the buyer. Especially if it is a kit and you have no control over how the customer assembles it, powers it, or uses it.

Do you have "deep pockets"?  Do you have a family fortune and a big dacha in the Dinaric Alps?  If you are like the rest of us you have "limited liability" simply because there aren't enough assets to make it worthwhile to go after you legally. 

Of course that won't stop a government who are prohibited from use of common sense.  But how badly could your gadget fail to make a situation so bad a government would take notice?  You may be over-thinking this.
 

Offline Red Squirrel

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 1126
  • Country: ca
Re: Selling circuitboards legally
« Reply #15 on: June 21, 2017, 01:34:02 PM »
If you are like the rest of us you have "limited liability" simply because there aren't enough assets to make it worthwhile to go after you legally. 

Won't that make you a bigger target though?  They know you won't have money to fight it and will either have to settle, or battle it out and probably lose.  Either way you lose your house, you lose everything. And they probably garnish your wages as well since your house will only cover a fraction of the lawsuilt losses, whether it's a settlement or an actual amount being sued for.    Even settlements tend to be in the hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions.

Though if you form a corporation, can they still go after you personally or only go after the corporation?  Seems forming a corporation would be the best bet if you want to sell stuff, that way if you get sued you can just go bankrupt, move your site's domain to a parking page and vanish.
 

Offline f5r5e5d

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 284
 

Offline Red Squirrel

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 1126
  • Country: ca
Re: Selling circuitboards legally
« Reply #17 on: June 21, 2017, 06:03:14 PM »
Is there some kind of insurance one can get to protect themselves?  To me that is the biggest barrier of entry to any kind of business that involves selling items, people like to sue, and a single lawsuit is pretty much going to ruin your life and put you on the street unless you operate from a country that protects you better from frivolous lawsuits.   
 

Online blueskull

  • Supporter
  • ****
  • Posts: 6478
  • Country: cn
  • Final year EE PhD
Re: Selling circuitboards legally
« Reply #18 on: June 21, 2017, 06:15:30 PM »
Is there some kind of insurance one can get to protect themselves?  To me that is the biggest barrier of entry to any kind of business that involves selling items, people like to sue, and a single lawsuit is pretty much going to ruin your life and put you on the street unless you operate from a country that protects you better from frivolous lawsuits.

Isn't a limited company protects you from liabilities other than company equity?
I know the rules in China (and I believe, the entire world, hence the word "limited") is that a limited company will have a registered capital, and the maximum liability can't exceed the max of registered capital and actual equity.
So if I have a company registered as $100k, and the company actually has $80k of total equity at hand, then the max liability I will take is $100k.
Similarly, if a $100k registered company has $200k at hand, then the max liability is $200k.

Depending on laws, but in China, you can start a limited company with as little registered capital as ~$4.3k, and there must be at least 2 founders. For one man band, the minimum registered capital is higher, ~$14.3k. In any case, at the time the company is founded, at least 30% of registered capital must be provided (so you can start a company with only 30% of declared registered capital, but you are still liable for 100%).
SIGSEGV is inevitable if you try to talk more than you know.
 

Offline MosherIV

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 659
  • Country: gb
Re: Selling circuitboards legally
« Reply #19 on: June 21, 2017, 08:21:11 PM »
Quote
Isn't a limited company protects you from liabilities other than company equity?
Depends on the country that the company is registered and operates in.
Limited (liability) company is UK mainly, possibly in Germany as well. Do not know about other countries.
 

Offline janoc

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 1633
  • Country: fr
Re: Selling circuitboards legally
« Reply #20 on: June 22, 2017, 06:11:57 AM »
Quote
Isn't a limited company protects you from liabilities other than company equity?
Depends on the country that the company is registered and operates in.
Limited (liability) company is UK mainly, possibly in Germany as well. Do not know about other countries.

The concept certainly does exists in most EU countries, just the name and some of the details could vary - e.g. the German GmbH, French SARL,SAS,EURL (and maybe more), Slovak s.r.o companies, etc.
 
The following users thanked this post: MosherIV


Share me

Digg  Facebook  SlashDot  Delicious  Technorati  Twitter  Google  Yahoo
Smf