All Things Shipping
Mar 22, 2021

EU Shipping Update: What You Need to Know About ICS2

ICS2 — which stands for Import Control System 2 — is a new European Union (EU) regulation that went into effect on Monday, March 15th. “Great for the EU,” you might think, “But what does all this really mean for me as an e-commerce merchant?”

To make these EU compliance updates a little easier to understand, we’ve broken down the essentials for you:

  • The goal of this new regulation is to collect more information about goods before they arrive. Among other reasons, the EU is introducing these customs safety and security measures to “increase protection of EU citizens and the internal market” (you can find more details on the EU’s official website). The new regulation impacts all cross-border shipments, including both orders into the EU and orders between EU member states.
  • The EU now requires more descriptive order item details for all incoming shipments. For example, instead of catch-all categories like “clothing” or “household goods”, customs officials now want to see more detailed descriptions like “men’s shirts”. You can find a list of generic, unacceptable terms along with the suggested alternatives provided by the European Commission here.
  • Some carriers, including UPS and DHL Express, now require item details on the shipping label itself. Shippo automatically meets these requirements for cross-border shipments when you use customs declarations. When shipping intra-EU, Shippo customers should not opt-out of customs. If you’re not yet a Shippo customer, simply sign up for free to start taking advantage of this helpful feature.
  • If all ICS2-required information is not readily displayed on your shipping labels, your packages risk getting stopped at the border. This one’s pretty self explanatory — if you haven’t already, you should prepare to comply with the EU’s new regulation as quickly as possible.
  • The ICS2 is rolling out over the course of three releases:
    • Release 1 (effective as of Monday, March 15, 2021) includes express carriers, European-based postal operators, and third-country postal operators shipping to Europe.
    • Release 2 (effective March 1, 2023)  includes postal operators, air carriers, and freight forwarders.
    • Release 3 (effective March 1, 2024) includes operators carrying goods on maritime and inland waterways, roads, and railways.

An easy way to ensure your e-commerce business is ready to meet ICS2 requirements is by signing up for a free Shippo account, making sure your order item data is detailed and descriptive, and enabling customs declarations for your international shipments. Added bonus: Shippo also gives you access to the best rates across our vast network of carriers, so you can save on your international shipping costs as well.

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Heather Lohmann

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