European Commission Acceptable Goods Description Guide


When shipping goods into and out of the EU, several carriers might request for a general, consignment-wide description to be provided. This description is separate and in addition to the product-level data that Shiptheory automatically sends to carriers when a shipment is booked.

For every carrier that requires an overall description of a consignment, Shiptheory will provide a General Goods Description field in the respective carrier's settings.

European Commission Description Guidelines

The above requirement derives from the need for customs authorities to be able to base their risk-analysis on adequate descriptions of goods, and it is part of the Import Control System (ICS). The ICS is an electronic system developed by the European Commission and Member States for the lodging and processing of Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) (an ENS is an electronic safety and security declaration from the carrier to the customs authorities), and for the exchange of messages between national customs administrations, between them and economic operators, and with the European Commission. The objective of which is to ensure that import operations starting in one Member State can be completed in another Member State without resubmission of the same information.

According to the European Commission regulation, goods description for summary declarations should be in a plain language that is precise enough for customs authorities to be able to identify the goods. General terms and vague descriptions will not be accepted. Not providing a satisfactory description might lead to consignments being delayed (due to physical examinations of the goods) or returned.

When setting your consignment's overall description, we suggest selecting something that best describes your consignments without being overly generic or becoming too specific. For example, you should choose 'Men’ Shirt’ as your description instead of ‘Apparel’.

Acceptable and unacceptable terms for the description of goods

You can find a list of generic, unacceptable terms along with the suggested alternatives provided by the European Commission here.

This list is meant as a guide only, and it is not exhaustive.

A new Import Control System, ICS2, is about to be introduced in March 2021 and we expect the above list to be updated to match the new system's requirements. As a result, we highly recommend you keep referring back to this page where we will provide updated information and details on any future changes you may need to make.

If you have questions regarding this new feature or how Brexit might affect your current shipping process, please reach out to the Shiptheory support team.

Stathis Kampylis

Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Shiptheory