On 26 January 2015, the Export Control Organisation (“ECO”) of the UK’s Department of Innovation & Skills (“BIS”) issued a reminder that the deadline for holders of Open General and Open Individual Export Licences to file the first annual report of activity under certain of these open licenses is the end of January 2015. Holders of these open licenses will no doubt already be aware of the reporting requirement, which was mandated under the UK’s Strategic Export Control Transparency Initiative and was announced in January 2014, following a consultation with industry. For those not holding open licenses, the ECO’s reminder presents an opportunity to learn about the ways that they may be used, including the current reporting requirements that apply to them.

The ECO has established several national Open General Export Licences (“OGELs”) and Open Individual Export Licences (“OIELs”) and administers European Union General Authorizations (“EU GEAs”) used by UK exporters. These open licences provide flexibility and avoid the need to apply for individual licences for each shipment for qualifying export transactions.

The most flexible such licences are OGELs and EU GEAs, which are generally designed for the export of controlled goods that are going to low risk destinations, goods that are less sensitive in nature, or perhaps low value shipments. All OGELs and EU GEAs are published and their terms cannot be amended by the exporter. Use of such general licences generally requires registration on SPIRE (ECO’s online export licensing system), and impose conditions which must be complied with, including recordkeeping. If an exporter has a track record in export licensing or has a robust business case, an application for an OIEL may be granted with respect to certain types of items at the discretion of the ECO. OIELs permit shipments of larger quantities of items to more than one customer, provided conditions of the OIEL are met. Compliance with OGELs, EU GEAs and OIELs is subject to audit by the ECO.

Under the Transparency Initiative, exporters are required to provide information on the country of destination, type of end-user and the number of times the open licence has been used for that country/end-user type on an annual basis. This represents an easing from the originally proposed reporting requirements, which contemplated quarterly reporting. The original proposal also contemplated reporting of classification information or description of the items exported under the open licence, but this information is now not required to be reported (although this type of information is generally required to be kept by exporters under applicable recordkeeping requirements). Reports are not required for exports of technology under the open licences. Some general licences (including EU GEAs) are excluded from the reporting requirement.

Reporting is done through the SPIRE system and exporters have the choice either to report continually throughout the year, or alternatively, to submit a consolidated report at the end of the year. All information gathered through the Transparency Initiative will be published in an aggregated form in the Strategic Export Controls Annual Report.

ECO notices on the reporting requirement do not specify the consequences of failure to report. However, such failure may risk suspension or revocation of the open licences.