In Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Commerce has implemented a product certification programme for all imported consumer related products, under the authority of the Saudi Standards Metrology and Quality Organization (SASO). The purpose of this programme is to ensure that such products comply with the applicable technical standards and regulations before they are imported into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) territory, at the port of entry.
Under the previous programme, which operated until January 31, 2019, all consumer related products required a Certificate of Conformity (CoC), issued by an approved conformity assessment body, for entry into KSA. In practice, it meant that a CoC had to accompany all consignments of products to be exported to KSA.
As from January 31, 2019, a new product conformity programme called SALEEM replaces the above mentioned product certification process. Pursuant to this new programme, all shipments arriving into KSA now require a Product CoC and a Shipment CoC as follows:
- The Product CoC certifies that a regulated product complies with the applicable technical standards and regulations (in this respect, SASO has issued regulations and standards setting out technical requirements per type of regulated products);
- The Shipment CoC certifies that each regulated product in the shipment has a valid Product CoC (as a result, a Shipment CoC is only valid in relation to a specific shipment).
The Product CoC and the Shipment CoC are mandatory for goods clearance: without a Shipment CoC, any shipment of products that arrive in the KSA customs will be rejected, causing delays in goods clearance, penalties or shipments being returned to the country of origin. However, as mentioned above, a Shipment CoC will only be issued if each regulated product in the shipment has a valid Product CoC.
In this context, SASO has developed and implemented a new online service called SABER.
- is aimed at connecting importers with approved conformity assessment bodies (such as TUV, Intertek, etc.) for regulated products to be offered for sale in the Saudi Market, and
- is to be used for the issuance of the required certificates of conformity for imported products (Product CoC and Shipment CoC), hence speeding up the issuance process and reducing the time required for the importation of products (including customs clearance).
From a practical point of view, the SABER process may be summarised as follows:
(i)Registration of the importer onto the SABER system
(ii)Issuance of the Product Certificate of Conformity
- (A)Registration on the platform of all the regulated products to be imported;
- (B)The importer applies for the Product CoC, selects a Conformity Assessment Body and pays the corresponding fees;
- (C)The Conformity Assessment Body verifies whether each regulated product complies with the applicable technical standards, and uploads qualifying documents onto the system;
- (D)In the event of compliance, the Product CoC is issued online on the SABER platform and is valid for one year.
(iii)Issuance of the Shipment Certificate of Conformity
- (A)To complete the process necessary to import a shipment of regulated products into KSA, the importer shall apply online on SABER for a Shipment CoC;
- (B)The Conformity Assessment Body verifies all technical documents submitted online in relation to each regulated product in the shipment (which includes the verification that there is a valid Product CoC for each regulated product in the shipment);
- (C)If so, the Shipment CoC is issued online via the SABER platform, after payment of the corresponding fees.
Absent a Shipment CoC accompanying a consignment of products, the consignment would be prevented from customs clearance in KSA and hence, from being placed on the KSA marketplace. In such a situation, the Market Surveillance Authorities in KSA may order the re-exportation of the products to their country of origin, or their destruction, and may issue fines against the entity responsible for introducing the products in KSA.
As a result, the advice for international companies exporting regulated products to KSA is to liaise with a conformity assessment body for the obtention of the required certificates of conformity. This is now simplified by the new online platform, which is another example of how governments in the region are increasingly relying on new technologies for more user-friendly and efficient processes.