Private companies and international law


If you run a business which buys or sells its goods outside of the UK, your enterprise must ensure it fully complies with all international business law. Much of the international business law you must be aware of when trading with the EU for instance, is about import or export tariffs such as the payment of duty, excise and VAT.

Also, international business law includes safety regulations which apply to goods sold to the public.

What is private international law?

Any business that trades overseas must comply with private company international law. These laws govern a host of activities from the import or export of goods to international sales via the internet.

As the business owner it is your responsibility to ensure private company international law is fully complied with. Ignorance of any law or legislation here in the UK, or in any country you trade with, is no defence if you are taken to court.

Your particular market sector coupled with the countries you trade with should give you a framework about the international law you must not break. Most of the international laws you will need to comply with cover import and export tariffs. HMRC (HM Revenue & Customs) can give you detailed information about the taxes you may have to pay.

Trading online

International business law also extends to how your business sells its goods online. As a private company, international law can also impact on your business if you:

  • Trade over the internet
  • Have offices in other parts of the world

The local laws and regulations that are in force must be complied with.

The Distance Selling Regulations clearly set out your responsibilities when selling goods using the internet to customers outside of the UK. You must comply with this international business law or face possible prosecution here in the UK, and potentially, also in the country where your customer is based.

International fraud

All businesses must also be fully aware of the regulations that govern international trade. One important component is combating international fraud, as money laundering is a serious offence.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) are involved in policing international trade. It is important to ensure you have all the documents you need to legally import or export goods to ensure you fully comply with international business law.

Using a solicitor

It is always in your best interests to research private company international law before committing any resources to expanding your business. Consult an international law solicitor as they have detailed knowledge of the current and forthcoming regulations that might impact on your business.

Private company international law is a complex section of the legal system. If you are accused of breaking any laws or regulations you must have legal representation to not only help prepare your defence, but to speak for you in court if you do not want to do this yourself.

Never attempt to handle these cases alone, as they can touch on many international laws that only a solicitor can fully appreciate. The legal representation you have will be invaluable in that they will give your case its best chance of success.

For more advice on doing business overseas, see our information page on international trade law.

Is your business being affected by international laws, and you are unsure of your legal obligations? Contact Law works with specialist international company and commercial solicitors who can advise on a range of jurisdictional matters. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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