Feb 19, 2009

It's so easy to.... break the law!

Curiosity - that was my main feeling when I opened up one of my emails today. I wasn't even sure it was a real email but it didn't look suspicious, just odd.

Curiosity was swiftly followed by incredulity, that OMG feeling. I was reading a notice that I had broken Swiss law. Fortunately, it didn't look like anyone was on their way to arrest me.

So how did I, a basically law-abiding citizen (hey, I don't even download music!) become an international criminal?

I'm in Israel. Some of my products are stained glass and fused glass pendants. I string them on a simple silver chain that I purchase from someone else. She doesn't make them, she purchases huge quantities from someone else. It's a regular food chain, and we're all happy.

Recently a very nice woman from Switzerland purchased one of my stained glass pendants from JesterJewelry, one of my Etsy stores. I shipped it to her in a small jewelry box, in a small bubble mailer, with a receipt inside. Apparently this packet was stopped in customs. The chain, just for the record, is worth about $2.

The Problem
As I learned today, imports of anything made from precious metal are restricted in Switzerland. The pendant wasn't a problem. The value wasn't a problem. The $2 chain was a BIG problem. Because I didn't have a clear RM - Responsibility Mark, the equivalent of a precious metal import permit, I think - I broke the law. It doesn't matter that it was just a chain, or that I didn't make the chain, or even that this was the very first time I've had a sale to Switzerland.

The Customs lawyer sent me a longish manual for using RM's (it's not enough just to have an RM, you have to apply other notifications to it, depending on what you are sending) and encouraged me to apply for a permit or face having all future "shipments" rejected if they contain a chain. I don't know if it's hard, or expensive, to receive an RM, but I can tell you that fulfilling the requirements for marking up the items is very complicated. I know, because I read the manual.

The Lesson
I see myself with several choices - I can apply for an RM that I might never need, I can send the pendants without chains or with leather cord replacements, or I can refuse to sell to clients in Switzerland. No matter how I look at it, it's a pain in the butt.

I wrote up the story with a bit more technical detail for the Etsy business forum. Fellow sellers are very sympathetic, and I do appreciate that. It doesn't help me regarding the business at hand, but it's nice to know that other artists stand by me. And that they didn't know about the Swiss law, because I would have felt really dumb if everyone knew about it but me.

Do you need a copy of the Swiss import specifications for precious metals? If so, contact me through the blog with your email and I'll post it to you.


Mytutorlist.com said...

Wow, that's something I would have never expected... crazy...

Thanks for sharing this!

Mrs.Kwitty said...

Gulp! I guess we (meaning ME) had better be very diligent in reading customs forms before mailing. Who knew?! Thanks for the reminder.
Smiles, Karen

HanamiGallery said...

Wow. What an interesting law. I would just sell them as pendants or with cord replacements. It is probably a huge pain to go through the process.