Companies doing business in Mexico must be familiar with Mexican business laws and regulations. These include the Commercial Code (Código de Comercio), the General Business Entities Act (Ley General de Sociedades Mercantiles) and the Foreign Investment Act (Ley de Inversión Extranjera). In addition, such companies must be familiar with the Official Mexican Standards or Normas Oficiales Mexicanas. Failure to do so may result in monetary fines, business closures or restriction from exporting goods or services to Mexico.
Official Mexican Standards (as known by their Mexican acronym, “NOMS”) are mandatory technical regulations that establish rules, specifications, or requirements for goods and services. NOMS serve as tools that allow Mexican governmental agencies establish measurable parameters to prevent injuries or damages to the general population, to animals or to the environment. For instance, NOMS may require the use of green energy products, the implementation of accurate phone billing practices, compliance with accurate product measurements procedures, the inclusion of certain timeshare contract provisions, or compliance with health and safety standards.
As there are literally hundreds of NOMS, all of which are fairly technical, consulting with competent legal counsel is sound business practice. Examples of areas or industries regulated by NOMS include: Governmental Activities, Food, Water, Fishing and Agriculture, Hospitals, Alcohol and Tobacco, Telecommunications, Hospitality, Real Estate, Banking and Finance, Oil and Gas, Mining, Automobile, Clothing, Electronics, Jewelry, Plastics, Rubber, Transportation, etc.
The government is in charge of identifying and evaluating the risks and issuing NOMS to prevent them. In the process, however, experts, chambers, professional organizations and market participants get actively involved. Initial drafts are submitted to the National Standards Consulting Committee (Comité Consultivo Nacional de Normalización) for preliminary approval. Once approved, NOMS are published in the Federal Official Gazette for a 60-day public review period. Upon the expiration of such term, the corresponding NOM is revised as needed and the final version is published in the Federal Official Gazette.
Pursuant to Mexico’s Federal Metrology and Standardization Law, there are, in addition to NOMS, Mexican Standards and Reference Standards. Mexican Standards or NMXs are developed by a national standardization body or by the Ministry of the Economy. These standards establish the minimum quality requirements of products and services in order to protect and guide consumers. Compliance with these standards is voluntary, except in those cases where individuals express that their products, processes or services conform to them, or when a NOM requires the enforcement of a NMX for specific purposes.
Reference Standards or NRFs are developed by public administration entities for application to goods or services they acquire, lease or hire, when Mexican or international standards do not cover the relevant requirements or their specifications are obsolete or inapplicable.
A full NOM catalogue is available online at: http://www.economia-noms.gob.mx/noms/inicio.do
Mauricio Leon de la Barra is an international law attorney licensed to practice law in Mexico and California, and has more than 15 years of experience representing clients in cross-border business and real estate transactions and litigation involving international, U.S. and Mexican laws.