Tag: penalties

WPM Mark

Regulated Wood Packaging Material (WPM) and Penalties

Nearly 5 years ago, we blogged about Regulated Wood Packaging Material (WPM) violations, and the trouble it can get importers into. You can read all about that in Regulated Wood Packaging Material Customs Violations. CBP’s page with links to various WPM resources is accessible on CBP’s website HERE.

But, now something has changed. Pursuant to the old CBP guidelines, an importer could have 5 WPM violations in one year before they were penalized. However, as of November 1, 2017, and importer is liable for a penalty in the first instance of a WPM violation.

The new frequently asked questions published by CBP and summarize the change thus “Effective November 1, 2017, responsible parties with documented WPM violation may be issued a penalty. This is a change from the previous published tolerance of five WPM violations.”

This change was initially broadcast through customs Cargo Systems Messaging Service (CSMS #17-000612). That message states the reason for the change in enforcement as follows:

To motivate WPM compliance, effective November 1, 2017, responsible parties with a documented WPM violation may be issued a penalty under Title 19 United States Code (USC) § 1595a(b) or under 19 USC § 1592.  This is a change from the previous published threshold of 5 violations.  There will be no yearly reset for calculating repeat violations as each WPM violation may incur a penalty.

So, importers: be motivated.

Can an application to separate violative wood packaging material still be filed?

Yes, the new guidelines still permit importer’s to file an application to separate violative wood packaging material to avoid re-importation of the merchandise.

If you have been informed that you wood packaging material is in violation of the law and needs to be re-exported, immediately contact us and we can prepare an application to separate violative wood packaging material so that, if it is granted, you do not have to undergo the time and expense of re-exporting the merchandise you are trying to import.

Can WPM penalties be mitigated?

Yes, WPM penalties can be mitigated. Never pay full price in a penalty proceeding! If you have received a notice of penalty or liquidated damages and are being told you must pay as a result of the violation, immediately call or e-mail our office at (734) 855-4999 and we can prepare a petition for mitigation of the penalty amount.

CBP Seizes Counterfeit Watches with $2.7M MSRP

Customs reported a seizure of over 11,000 counterfeit watches which, if real, would have a manufacturer’s suggest retail price of $2,791,250. The same law that permits Customs to seize the counterfeit watches also allows CBP to impose a penalty of up to the MSRP value of the counterfeit watches. In this case, that means the importer of these watches will be subject to a penalty of nearly $2.8 million dollars.

MIAMI – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations (OFO) officers with the Miami Seaport Trade Enforcement Team (TET) seized 11,165 counterfeit watches with an MSRP value of $2,791,250.

Counterfeit watches with an MSRP value of $2,791,250.
CBP seized 11,165 counterfeit watches with an MSRP value of $2,791,250.

The watches were being shipped from China and destined for Florida. CBP OFO officers discovered the watches in 123 cartons arriving in a shipment from China.

CBP OFO officers with the Trade Enforcement Team (TET) suspected the watches were counterfeit as the items did not appear to be of the quality consistent with the watches that are normally manufactured by the trademark holder.

Samples were submitted to CBP Import Specialists for review and determined to be counterfeit.

“Counterfeiters are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their efforts and CBP OFO officers here at the Miami Seaport take great pride in protecting Americans from low quality and unsafe products,” said Miami Seaport Port Director Diane Sabatino. “Our CBP officers consistently demonstrate their exceptional skills at identifying counterfeit goods and work well with CBP Import Specialists to protect consumers and ensure these products do not enter the commerce of the United States.”

You might be facing penalties from customs for importing counterfeit merchandise. We can help. Typically, we recommended preparing and filing a petition, with the assistance of legal counsel, which argues persuasively for the substantial mitigation, or when the facts and law warrant it, cancellation of the penalty in full.

Great Lakes Customs Law has been very successful in getting these kinds of penalties reduced and, sometimes, even eliminated entirely (some history of our success is HERE).If you have had merchandise seized by customs because they allege it is counterfeit and contains trademark violations and/or have a received a notice of penalty for importing alleged counterfeits or for making an importation contrary to law, call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist petitions for customs penalties and seizures around the country, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places. Please read these other articles:

CBP Fines Agricultural Products Smugglers $98,000

When you heard that someone is a smuggler, or that they’ve smuggled something you typically think of smuggling drugs or other nefarious types of products. Most people don’t realize smuggling is essentially just another word for concealing. Concealing can be accomplished by outfitting a vehicle or container to hide products, by hiding illicit product with legitimate products in the same shipment, or by falsely declaring the contents of a shipment on an invoice or manifest.

In the story we quote below, the “shippers and freight forwarders employ[ed] fictitious shipper names and addresses, and provide[d] unrelated cargo descriptions” in an effort to smuggle the goods into the country. The goods were prohibited agricultural goods that contained unsafe foods or a risk of harboring invasive insect species. CBP takes this very seriously in the wake of the destructive effects posed by species that arrived in the United States via importation, like the Emerald ash border (see our article on Regulated Wood Packaging Violations)

In the story, U.S. Customs & Border Protection Agriculture Specialists conducted a special operation to “interrupt an extensive network of purposely mislabeled and high risk agriculture products coming from Hong Kong, China, India, and Saudi Arabia that were “en route to various locations throughout the United States, including ethnic restaurants, food stores, and private residences.”

From the story, which you can read in full HERE, that the purchases were largely made by consumers over the Internet.

Various concealment methods were discovered during this operation. CBPAS found meat smuggled in fish packets and tea bags, fruits inside sealed cookie bags, loose and packaged seeds within candy wrappers, and seeds in foil-lined bags in an effort to avoid x-ray detection.

The prohibited contraband included fresh plums and other fresh plant products, eggs, propagative plant materials including invasive species, and fresh and processed poultry and pork products coming from countries with known virulent disease outbreaks such as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) and Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).

In total, this special operation yielded 1,104 inspected shipments, 73 shipments Returned to Origin (RTO), 198 Emergency Action Notifications (EANs), four mis-delivery penalties, and 98 mis-manifesting penalties netting a total of $98,000 in fines. Additionally, CBPAS destroyed over 900 pounds of contraband from 146 shipments and found 10 pest interceptions.

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If you need help petitiong for the mitigation of penalties with customs you should contact our office by e-mail or call (734) 855-4999. We are experienced in defending customs penalties and preparing detailed and well argued petitions for mitigation of penalties or liquidated damages. You can also make use of our other articles, such as:

Customs penalties articles:

Customs Wood Packaging Material Violations In The News Again

Wood Packaging Material violations and penalties should be something you don’t hear about in the news anymore. But WPM violations and the penalties that come with them, still rear their head everyone once in a while. We authored an article on everything you need to know about Regulated Wood Packaging Material violations and penalties, which discussed the elements of a violation, possible resolutions for the importer who is facing re-export of WPM, and notice of penalty for importations contrary to law for WPM violations.

The reason this should be something that don’t hear about anymore is because the restrictions on WPM have been in place since 2005… the trade community was given ample time to comply. Yet still, almost 10 years

WPM Mark
WPM Mark

later, customs released a C-TPAT alert for non-compliant wood packaging material violations. The whole alert is HERE, but I quote some parts below:

The purpose of this C-TPAT Alert is to inform all C-TPAT Partners, particularly its sea carriers, of recent interceptions of non-compliant wood packing material (WPM) used in flat rack cargo carried by ocean vessels traversing the Mediterranean.

WPM is defined as wood or wood products (excluding paper products) used in supporting, protecting, or carrying a commodity. Some examples of WPM include: bins, cases, cratings, reels, load boards, boxes, containers, pallets, skids, dunnage and crates. Snails and other pests may infest non-compliant wood packing material. These pests are regulated under the Federal Plant Protection Act. Snail

infestations of WPM is just an example of a threat that targets the world’s agriculture and the Nation’ food supply. With the ever increasing amount of trade, the threat to U.S. crops and livestock is real.

The commodities with the highest incidence of WPM pests include: manifested WPM; machinery (including auto parts); metal products; and stone products (including tile).
Other high risk commodities include electronics and electronic components, finished wood articles, plant products and foodstuffs.

Please read our article including everything you need to know about WPM violations by CLICKING HERE.

If you have been informed that you wood packaging material is in violation of the law and needs to be re-exported, immediately call or e-mail office at (734) 855-4999 and we can prepare an application to separate violative wood packaging material so that, if it is granted, you do not have to undergo the time and expense of re-exporting the merchandise you are trying to import.

If you have received a notice of penalty or liquidated damages and are being told you must pay as a result of the violation, immediately call or e-mail our office at (734) 855-4999 and we can prepare a petition for mitigation of the penalty amount.

Never pay full price in a penalty proceeding!

 

Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties; Part 2

Importing counterfeit merchandise into into the United States is not only illegal, but is something that U.S. Customs & Border Protection takes very seriously. Intercepting counterfeits is considered it to be a priority trade enforcement issue. For truly counterfeit imported merchandise, there are few opportunities to get the seizure remitted (to get the merchandise back from customs), and so it is forfeited (becomes property of the government). We discussed this Part I of Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties. But, forfeiture is often just the beginning of the story, because customs can and does penalize people for importing counterfeit merchandise.

When does customs issue a notice of penalty for importing counterfeits?

As matter of policy, customs issues a penalty when 3 criteria are met:

  1. The counterfeit mark is registered with the Patent and Trademark Office
  2. The counterfeit mark recorded with U.S. Customs & Border Protection
  3. The importer has no consent from the trademark holder to import the counterfeits

In all other situations, customs has the authority to issue a penalty, but may or may not, even if the merchandise is seized. It depends on the individual circumstances of the case.

What is a notice of penalty and who is liable?

The notice of penalty is sent from the Fines, Penalties & Forfeiture’s Office of U.S. Custom & Border Protection through the U.S. mail, usually certified. The notice of penalty is typically a 1 to 2 page document, that states what law or laws or regulations were allegedly violated, and based on the violation, it demands payment of a certain dollar amount.

The importer and anyone who causes, directs, or assists the importation (financially or otherwise) is liable to get the notice of penalty.

How is the penalty amount determined?

The penalty dollar amount is usually based on the maximum amount that customs can levy under the law for counterfeit violations; they are are not based on the price actually paid for the goods, but on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (“MSRP”) of the goods if they were genuine:

  • 1st Offense: the penalty is equal to up to the MSRP of genuine goods
  • 2nd (or more) Offense: the penalty is equal to twice the MSRP of genuine goods

For example, if you are importing counterfeit jeans that cost $5 each, but which have a MSRP for genuine jeans of  $95, customs customs uses the $95 price in its calculation. In this example, if 100 pairs of jeans were imported, the penalty for a 1st offense is up to $9,500 (not $500). For a 2nd offense, the penalty is up to $19,000 (not $500 or $1,00).

Does customs ever reduce a penalty?

You can pay the penalty or, as we recommend, file a petition for mitigation to ask for a reduction in the penalty. Once the notice of penalty is sent, the recipient has either 30 days to pay the penalty or file a detailed petition arguing the legal bases for further mitigation (reduction) or cancellation of the penalty. We recommended preparing and filing a petition, with the assistance of legal counsel, which argues persuasively for the substantial mitigation, or when the facts and law warrant it, cancellation of the penalty in full. Great Lakes Customs Law has been very successful in getting these kinds of penalties reduced and, sometimes, even eliminated entirely (some history of our success is HERE).

A failure to pay the penalty, or the mitigated penalty, will result in the referral of the matter for collection through the U.S. attorney. Customs may sue the importer or the person providing assistance in federal court and get a judgment against them. This allows the government to lien property, garnish assets and bank accounts, and seize property to satisfy the judgment.

Obviously, the best course of action is to file a petition, get a reduced penalty, and pay it.

Is there a way to reduce the penalty from customs?

Keep Calm Petition MemeYes, if a properly argued petition with factual and legal support is presented to customs, it is possible for a penalty reduction of anywhere from 10% to 30% for a first or second offense. There would have to mitigating and no aggravating factors to achieve that result.

A standard disposition with aggravating factors, or for a third offense, may still garner a reduction of 50% to 80%, if a properly argued petition with factual and legal support is presented to customs.

It is possible, and our law firm has been able to obtain complete cancellation of the penalty even in cases where there are still grounds for a technical violation of the law (some history of our success is HERE). Of course, results will vary from case to case, and no result could be guaranteed. Customs has maintains a list of mitigating factors and aggravating factors that it looks for, and which should part of the argument and analysis of any petition that is filed for them; without a careful and thoughtful analysis of those factors that customs looks for, you may end up pay more than necessary.

If you have had your merchandise seized or have received a notice of penaalty from customs, call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer about the possibility of getting your penalty reduced, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist petitions and in penalty cases by customs nationwide.

Regulated Wood Packaging Material Customs Violations

In 2007, Customs & Border Protection began enforcing requirements that regulated wood packaging material imported into the United States mandating that it meet certain requirements. Although an “old” issue, importers still run afoul of these requirements and get themselves into trouble. These requirements have the effect of limiting the risk that wood packaging material imported into the United States will introduce foreign insects into the U.S. ecosystem that could be harmful to the environment and U.S. industries, particularly the lumber industry and native tree populations in our forests.

What is wood packaging material, and what is regulated?

First, it should be noted that there is a distinction between wood packaging material and regulated  wood packaging material. Wood packaging material is just wood or wood products, excluding paper products, used in support, protecting, or carrying a commodity, including dunnage. 7 CFR 314.40-1.

Regulated wood packaging material  is defined as:

Wood packaging material other than manufactured wood materials, loose wood packaging materials, and wood pieces less than 6 mm thick in any dimension, that are used or for use with cargo to prevent damage, including, but not limited to, dunnage, crating, pallets, packing blocks, drums, cases, and skids.

7 CFR 314.40-1.

Although not really made clear in the regulations, for purposes of enforcement Customs probably considers manufactured wood materials to woods like plywood, fiber board, whiskey barrels, wine barrels, and veneer. Regulated wood packaging materials include materials like dunnage, crating, pallets, packing blocks, cases, skids, and other wood that is dry and loose (as in the case of sawdust or wood shavings) and is not less than 6mm thick (as in the case of certain shims).

What must be done to wood packaging material so that it is compliant?

The requirements can be complicated in certain situations, and there are a limited number of exemptions, especially for trade with Canada and Mexico. But generally speaking, the wood must be treated and marked. 7 CFR 319.40-3. The wood must be marked in a “in a visible location on each article, preferably on at least two opposite sides of the article, with a legible and permanent mark that indicates that the article meets” the requirements of the law. The mark looks something like shown below, but the letters and numbers will vary depending on the circumstances (i.e., origin and type of treatment).

WPM Mark
WPM Mark

The means of treatment is set out in 7 CFR 305, and consists of heat treatment or a type of fumigation through chemical treatment with methyl bromide.

What if regulated wood packaging material is untreated or unmarked?

If your wood packaging material is regulated wood packaging material, meaning that there is no exception to the treatment and marking requirements, then it is violative wood packaging materials if it is not both marked and treated. A violation can either be because the treatment was not done, because the mark is not present, or because the mark is illegible. Even if the wood is actually treated but is not stamped, it is still violative. Even if you somehow know for a fact that the wood is not infested, it is still violative.

As such, it is most likely that you will be required to immediately re-export the wood packaging material out of the country. This will be done through the issuance of an Emergency Action Notification that gives you a certain period of time to re-export your entire shipment.

After receiving a notice of the presence of a violative wood packaging material, whether verbally or through an Emergency Action Notification, it is important to move very quickly. Failure to be obey the deadline given in the Emergency Action Notification can result in additional penalties.

Is there an alternative to re-exporting my merchandise?

It is possible to get permission from the Port Director to separate the violative wood packaging material from the commodity (e.g., separate the merchandise from its pallets), and re-export only the violative wood packaging material and enter the commodity. However, that is a complicated process with its own legal procedures, involving meeting certain requirements, demonstrating certain safeguards, paying certain costs, and filing an Application to Separate Violative Wood Packaging Material directly with the port director.

Obviously, this Application to Separate can be granted or denied. Filing of the application does not suspend the time period in which you must comply with the Emergency Action Notification to re-export. And if denied, you will still need to re-export. So, application to separate should prepared and filed as soon as possible. If the application is not successful, you will be re-exporting your commodities.

What are the ramifications of importing, or attempting to import, violative wood packaging materials?

Apart from the requirement to re-export the materials and your merchandise, and the costs associated with that come from your supply chain and your inventory problem, there are penalties that can be imposed by Customs for this type of violation.

Customs will usually send a Notice of Penalty or Liquidated Damages to the importer involved with the wood packaging material violation for violations of 7 CFR 319.40 as being an importation, or attempted importation, contrary to law under 19 USC 1595a, or as commercial fraud or negligence under 19 USC 1592. As in the case with all customs penalties, there are guidelines for reducing the amount of money customs seeks in penalty. This can only be done by filing a petition for mitigation.

What do I do next?

If you have been informed that you wood packaging material is in violation of the law and needs to be re-exported, immediately call or e-mail office at (734) 855-4999 and we can prepare an application to separate violative wood packaging material so that, if it is granted, you do not have to undergo the time and expense of re-exporting the merchandise you are trying to import.

If you have received a notice of penalty or liquidated damages and are being told you must as a result of the violation, immediately call or e-mail our office at (734) 855-4999 and we can prepare a petition for mitigation of the penalty amount.