Colombian law does not require foreign firms to secure local representation for private sector sales. However, Colombians prefer to deal with companies that have a local representative to ensure access to after-sales services. The one exception to this law is for sales to the government, which does require foreign bidders to have legal representation in Colombia.
To secure an agent, representative, or distributor the foreign company must execute a contract that meets the provisions of the Colombian Commercial Code. This contract must be registered with the chamber of commerce where the agent/representative is located. Agency or representation agreements do not require government approval.
An agent or representative differs from an appointed distributor. The former is legally associated with the principal and may enter into legal agreements on the principal's behalf, while the latter may act totally independently from the principal. Distributors may purchase items from a foreign supplier, wholesaler, or jobber, and then sell them locally at their own discretion and risk.
The U.S. Commercial Service recommends that U.S. companies consult a local attorney to execute an agency or distribution contract and to thoroughly vet the prospective partner by conducting a background check. Formality, personal relationships and trust are key ingredients for a long lasting contract. Colombians want to know their supplier or business partner personally before deciding whether he or she is trustworthy. U.S. companies seeking agents, distributors, or representatives in Colombia should consider contacting the U.S. Commercial Service office to request assistance in entering the Colombian market.