Aziz Rahman of award-winning solicitors Rahman Ravelli explains the important of functioning within the law when exporting.
It would be a surprise if many people reading this did not know what they needed to do to make sure their business is being run legally in the UK.
Everyone in business knows that they should play by the rules and do nothing that could attract the attention of the authorities.
The amount of time, money and effort that people invest in ensuring they are always functioning within the law may vary. For some, compliance – the devising and introducing of practices to prevent illegal business activity - is an idea that they believe they do not need to bother with. But such an approach can bring great costs later on.
That is especially the case when it comes to exports. If you do not make the time and put in the effort to understand the business laws and regulations in countries that you are looking to trade in, you are taking a huge gamble.
Countries in the EU and beyond have, in recent years, shown a greater desire to identify and punish business crime. There is now a much greater amount of collaboration between authorities such as the police, the Serious Fraud Office, HM Revenue and Customs, the Financial Conduct Authority and their foreign counterparts. While such cooperation has increased, advances in technology have made national and international anti-crime operations far simpler to conduct.
As a result, the law and its enforcers are now more powerful and more capable than ever before when it comes to detecting, investigating and prosecuting business crime – wherever you are exporting.
It almost goes without saying (but I will say it anyway) that if you are looking to export to a country, you must take the time to become familiar with its laws that affect your trading there. Obey the law, wherever you do business.
This may sound like unnecessarily simple advice. But it is not as straightforward as it sounds. After all, how can you be sure you are following the relevant law in any particular place? What guarantees can you have that your staff, agents and representatives are acting legally at all times, wherever they are setting up export deals?
The solution involves taking clear, well thought-out steps to make sure that the law of the country you are exporting to is being complied with – at all times.
We are back to that word, compliance. When it comes to exports, company directors need strong compliance procedures in place to make sure you are not breaking the laws of any country where you are exporting.
Such procedures can only be a success if they are devised after an in-depth examination of the company, its workforce, customers, suppliers and representatives and the business laws that are in force in the countries to which a company plans to export.
These procedures must be publicised, monitored, reviewed, revised when necessary and seen to be followed by all staff; from the highest levels downward. Failure to do this can prove costly. As a hypothetical example, if a company exports baby toys to Sweden that comply with Swedish safety laws, there is no problem. But if the Swedish safety laws are then tightened but the company is not aware of this, it will face both legal and financial headaches if it continues to export its toys which fall foul of the new legislation.
As a firm that advises companies, organisations and individuals on compliance, we are aware that finding the time, money and will to devote to ensuring a business is legally compliant can seem onerous. We are also aware that many companies believe they can “get by’’ in the UK without making such an effort.
This is a debatable point. But when it comes to exports, such an argument is nonsense. You cannot try and enter foreign markets without any knowledge of the laws in those countries that apply to your trading.
Exports are an excellent way of boosting a company’s national and international standing. But nothing can be more damaging to a company’s standing - and its export potential – than it breaking the laws in the countries where it trades.
Aziz Rahman is the founder of Rahman Ravelli; a top-ranked business crime law firm in national and international legal guides.
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