Disputes with Chinese suppliers Volume 3

In this volume, we discuss an unfortunate situation – what happens when your Chinese supplier disappears with tooling or inventory belonging to you! 😱


Question: My supplier has disappeared and will not respond. What do I do?

We’ve been working with a factory in China for many years. Recently they have stopped responding to me and seem to have disappeared.

To make matters worse, they hold my tooling and some stock of components.

How do I track them down so I can find out if they’re still in business, can continue to work with me, or so I can recover my tooling and parts and transfer them to a new supplier’s factory?



In this case, you’re going to need to go into detective mode and investigate what has happened with the supplier.

Firstly, if you do not have a manufacturing agreement that clarifies your ownership of the tooling, as well as an up-to-date list of the tooling parts, this makes recovering anything a lot more difficult.

There are several things that we can do to help here on the ground in China using the supplier’s information you provide (the more you have, the better. This would be things like address, phone number, staff contact details, etc):

  • Visit their facility and examine what is happening and if it’s still in business – if the factory is closed, a new factory is there and doesn’t let us in, or if there is a company there that is not identified and doesn’t let us in, we won’t know much more. We can ask the shops around if they know something, but that may not yield good information (sending in an auditor to investigate the site is charged at US$299 in the main areas we cover).
  • Spend time investigating, calling them on their numbers (if they’re still connected) and calling various organizations and offices in order to find out if the supplier is active, has moved, etc. (billed at US$34 per hour all-inclusive).

Note, that if we do get hold of someone, we need to be able to prove that we’re representing you in China by showing your contract and maybe 1 or 2 printed email exchanges between you, otherwise they may refuse to speak with us.

If the person we find doesn’t know you, for instance, if they’re a newer member of staff who never dealt with you, they may still be able to help by checking if they have some old tooling somewhere. In that case, they might be interested in looking at it and, in the hope of getting an order from you, helping to identify it.

(All this highlights the need to collect the contact information of several representatives — the higher in the hierarchy, the better, as they probably tend to be more stable — of your key suppliers.)

If you’re in this unfortunate position and would like to get help to investigate the supplier and find out if recovering tooling, etc, is possible, please contact us to discuss this.

Ultimate Guide To Sourcing From China And Developing Your Suppliers [eBook]

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There are 15 chapters over 80+ pages to explore, providing exhaustive guidance on the entire sourcing and supplier development process from start to finish, including:

  • Identifying suppliers,
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