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Old 24-01-2004, 12:43   #21
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Quote:
Originally posted by yaffle
What's the best practice to adopt here? How easy (or not) is it to get a refund for wrongly applied charges from Royal Mail and HM Customs and Excise? Is it better to simply refuse delivery in these circumstances?
Not really a lot you can do until you know what the item is, and the only way you can do that is to pay up. If it has been wrongly charged, I suspect that you would need to contact HMC&E via the phone number in the first post and ask them what you need to do to appeal the incorrect charge.

Edit - if anyone has experience with this, or yaffle when you find out, let us know and I will add it into the FAQ.

Last edited by paul_caygill; 24-01-2004 at 12:55.
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Old 24-01-2004, 12:53   #22
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Presumably you'd then also need to go after RM separately to reclaim their handling fee? Anyone know the procedure for doing that?
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Old 24-01-2004, 12:56   #23
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Quote:
Originally posted by yaffle
Presumably you'd then also need to go after RM separately to reclaim their handling fee? Anyone know the procedure for doing that?
08457 740 740 8am - 7.30pm, Monday to Friday. 8am - 6pm on Saturdays for RM customer services, but as I said, until you can be certain that the charge is incorrect, it is difficult to know how to proceed.

Good luck with it though.
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Old 24-01-2004, 21:04   #24
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Quote:
Originally posted by yaffle
I've had a customs charge notice this morning, but haven't bought anything over £18. I suspect it's a charge for Finding Nemo, from DVDCrave, which was £12.50. What's the best practice to adopt here? How easy (or not) is it to get a refund for wrongly applied charges from Royal Mail and HM Customs and Excise? Is it better to simply refuse delivery in these circumstances?
This sort of thing is quite rare. However, I wouldn't refuse delivery. If you do that you won't receive anything and still be out of pocket for the purchase. If I were you I'd go along to the Royal Mail depot holding the DVD, pay the charge but demand a receipt. Insist that the person issuing the receipt clearly writes on the back of the receipt what value is stated on the Customs label (including the currency) and for them to sign it. Also make sure that you keep the Customs label intact when opening the package. If you've been charged for a DVD valued less than £18 then phone up the Customs Helpline and explain exactly what's happened and what they recommend for you to obtain a full refund, including the £4 Royal Mail handling fee.

Last edited by Ed Parsons; 24-01-2004 at 21:52.
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Old 25-01-2004, 11:14   #25
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For completeness this is the email I got from customs when finding out whether there was a way of paying them to avoid paying Royal Mail.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Customs and RM: your questions answered.
Here's a a copy of the email I got from HMCE regarding how you could "choose" to pay customs yourself and avoid RM's ridiculous ad hoc charges.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In reference to your enquiry of the 15th of January 2004 regarding pre paying importation taxes.

There is no scheme in place for private persons to pay import duty and import VAT before the importation has taken place. As such the only advice I can offer is that you arrange for the import your self, if you decided to do this the imported goods must arrive at a designated place and must be presented to us by the person who brought the goods into the Community. Presentation means informing us in the required manner that the goods have arrived.

The person, who has brought the goods into the Community, or the person representing them or the person who assumes responsibility for their onward carriage, should present them. Once you have presented goods to us, you must lodge a summary declaration with us no later than the first working day following the day of presentation.

You may present goods by:
• using an approved computerised trade inventory system linked to Customs; or
• lodging Form C1600A at the designated Customs office, the address of which will be advised by the port or airport concerned.
The policy on customs debt is based upon the following principles:
 the declarant on the customs declaration is to be pursued by us for arrears of import duties;
 the person entitled to repayment is the person who was obliged to pay the duty as a customs debtor;
 the type of representation (direct or indirect) must be declared on Form C88 the Single Administrative Document (SAD) at the time of importation or exportation; and
 if the type of representation is not declared on the Form C88 (SAD), the representation is deemed to be self-representation and in these circumstances the person making the declaration will be the customs debtor.

For further information I refer you to Notice 199 ‘Imported goods: Customs procedures and Customs debt’.

The notices are available to view at our Internet site, the address is provided at the bottom of this letter. You can access the notices via Forms and publications.
If you have any further queries regarding the contents of this particular letter then please contact the address shown above (e-mail is acceptable) quoting the reference number shown, telephone lines are open from 0900hrs to 1630 hrs, Monday to Friday. You can also contact our National Advice Service help line on 0845 010 9000 between the hours of 08:00 and 20:00, if you have a query concerning other matters or wish to order a copy of the notice.
Yours
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Old 25-01-2004, 12:37   #26
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Well after much and re-reading their response several times CLH, do you think that what they could have said in one sentence is "Yes it is possible but we have made it so damned difficult as to be impractical and impossible for the man on the street"?

Clearly HMC&E are not after any Plain English awards
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Old 25-01-2004, 14:52   #27
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Quote:
Originally posted by paul_caygill
Well after much and re-reading their response several times CLH, do you think that what they could have said in one sentence is "Yes it is possible but we have made it so damned difficult as to be impractical and impossible for the man on the street"?

Clearly HMC&E are not after any Plain English awards
Seems that way. Almost like, well it would cost you billions to import a single DVD so quit moaning at the RM!
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Old 26-01-2004, 09:44   #28
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We had an "interesting" experience with Fedex recently that others might benefit from.

We bought some sheet music from the states which was shipped by Fedex. Sheet music is exempt from duty but we got an invoice for £18. Rang Fedex who claimed that the package "didn't have the right code on it to show that it was exempt" - hmmmm I think how would a US company know which code to put on a parcel & hang on a sec the customs declaration was a fedex label. rang hmce helpline, their rep told me (in so many words) that Fedex were spinning a yarn - The label stated that the goods were sheet music, that was all they should need to know that the goods were exempt. If we got no joy, HMCE would refund the duty but not the fedex charge.

Wrote stroppy email to fedex outlining what HMCE had said. A week later got a new invoice from Fedex showing that the charge had been waived.
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Old 04-02-2004, 16:34   #29
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Fed Ex are a bit of a nightmare imo.

Just about every package I get from the US via Fedex gets customs and vat charges. Its not dvd's but typically star wars stuff sent person to person. I dont get anywhere near the same problem with UPS, US Mail etc.

I presume they act as a "collector" on behalf of UK customs

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Old 04-02-2004, 18:20   #30
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Unfortunately Bingo Bongo, based on the experiences I have read on here over the years, if you get an item delivered by a courier that incurs customs charges, you will always get hit. Only seems to be those coming through Royal Mail that sometimes slip through, but they are becoming less and less.
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Old 05-02-2004, 01:18   #31
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Quote:
Originally posted by paul_caygill
Edit - if anyone has experience with this, or yaffle when you find out, let us know and I will add it into the FAQ.
I claimed duty back a couple of years ago, when I was wrongly charged duty as my CD's were below the £18 limit. I had to send the sticker from the parcel and a copy of my invoice showing how much I paid to HMC&E, I duly got a cheque back about 6 weeks later, but was told I had to claim RM's fee from them.

I noticed recently when ordering a PocketPC download from a US site in US$, that order's from EU residents would incur an appropriate VAT amount added to the total - seeing as this is obviously possible, it's a shame companies like DVDSoon don't implement this, as it's the admin fee's added for collection of duty, that make geting caught so expensive and adds hassle.
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Old 05-02-2004, 07:58   #32
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Just got a letter from Customs on some DVD's from the states worth 60 quid or so, they have arrived in the UK but I have to give them more information till they can be sent (what the package is worth etc). Am I able to lie on their value and get away with the customs charge or would they know? Anyone else managed to do this and get away with it?

Last edited by Mass; 05-02-2004 at 07:59.
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Old 05-02-2004, 11:08   #33
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mass
Just got a letter from Customs on some DVD's from the states worth 60 quid or so, they have arrived in the UK but I have to give them more information till they can be sent (what the package is worth etc). Am I able to lie on their value and get away with the customs charge or would they know? Anyone else managed to do this and get away with it?
It's easy for them to check on the value, and at the end of the day it's their estimation of the value that counts.

Most likely they're fishing for the company so they can check it on their web site.
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Old 10-02-2004, 11:02   #34
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Thanks for putting up this thread - most helpful

A couple of quick questions if anyone has the time:-

1. If I order something from DVD Soon or Pacific that is just under the £18 limit when I order it, but by the time they process and pack the order, the Currency Exchanged Rate has changed and the item is over the £18 limit, do they put the price I paid on the package, or the value when they pack it ?

2. Do all items valued over £18 get intercepted by customs, or do they just pick out a percentage, and let others through unchecked ?

thanks in anticipation
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Old 10-02-2004, 11:14   #35
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Quote:
Originally posted by nicknack
Thanks for putting up this thread - most helpful

A couple of quick questions if anyone has the time:-

1. If I order something from DVD Soon or Pacific that is just under the £18 limit when I order it, but by the time they process and pack the order, the Currency Exchanged Rate has changed and the item is over the £18 limit, do they put the price I paid on the package, or the value when they pack it ?
The declared value is the price you paid in the original currency, so CAN$ or US$ for those two (unless they lie in which case they falsify the declaration, which is what DVD Soon used to do and what DVD Pacific still do today). They don't check the exchange rate and declare UK value. The £18 value is only determined when it gets to HMC&E in the UK, who look up the current day's exchange rate and compare it with the declared value in whatever currency.

They also by law have to declare the shipping value, however that is not used in determining whether you're over the limit (so make sure people put the goods and shipping values separately). If you are over the limit, they will charge VAT&Duty on the shipping though .


Quote:

2. Do all items valued over £18 get intercepted by customs, or do they just pick out a percentage, and let others through unchecked ?
It's fairly random with anything through RoyalMail, though I find larger parcels attract more attention. They do go on the declaration though as I used to get items from Barnes&Nobble in the days when they marked boxes as "books" (zero rated for VAT), and even though it was clearly a DVD, customs ignore them. The instant B&N put "DVD" on their declaration... slam... customs charge .

Outside of RoyalMail though you'll find a lot of the couriers get hit far more. I suspect the couriers deliberately wave the items under HMC&E's noses or just do the job themselves, as virtually everything I've had through couriers that's over the limit has got hit (except one £300+ item through FedEx for some reason went through okay). ParcelFarce is a guaranteed hit (and on top of that an extortionate handling fee, miserable customer service, depots that are miles away with no parking, and idiots who return packages to US after one attempt at delivery ).

Last edited by DeadKenny; 10-02-2004 at 11:18.
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Old 16-02-2004, 13:49   #36
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It's about time Royal Main reduced their extortionate 'handling charge' for customs charges. I bought Firefly R1 for £21 from DVD Soon, and got charged £7.44.

£3.44 was customs charges, which is fair enough, but Royal Mail added on a £4.00 handling charge.

The handling charge was more than the duty!
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Old 16-02-2004, 14:17   #37
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Quote:
Originally posted by Stephen Robertson
It's about time Royal Main reduced their extortionate 'handling charge' for customs charges. I bought Firefly R1 for £21 from DVD Soon, and got charged £7.44.

£3.44 was customs charges, which is fair enough, but Royal Mail added on a £4.00 handling charge.

The handling charge was more than the duty!
It will only go up rather than down I'm afraid

Even competition won't help as the first competitors who've come along (recently in the news), don't replace RoyailMail, they just take over some of the sending, but all (usually incompetent)deliveries including the sorting office and thus the rip-off fee people, is still done by RM (the competitor pays RM a fee to deliver the mail!)

If you think £4 is bad enough, try ordering something using ParcelFarce Worldwide Express ... £13.50 handling fee, guaranteed, even if there's no customs to pay!!! . I'll never make that mistake again .

Last edited by DeadKenny; 16-02-2004 at 14:17.
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Old 19-02-2004, 12:36   #38
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Very good thread, Paul, and a very accurate collection of information.

I'll add a few random points of detail if I may:

* The Fedex handling charge for personal shipments is currently (Dec 03) £4.50. If you get charged more than that then you have probably been charged the business rate by mistake (I'm not sure what value shipment the £4.50 charge goes up to, but I was charged that on a £100 shipment). Fedex will usually send you a bill for you the charge a few days after delivering the items, by opening a Fedex account in your name and then sending you an invoice for that account. You should pay it immediately otherwise they will use a debt collection agency. Customs charges that they have paid on your behalf are payable immediately and not with the usual 28 days grace. Fedex are entitled to charge these admin charges because you, as the recipient of goods sent by air, have automatically taken over the sender's shipment contract (air waybill) with Fedex and the charges are a term of the contract.

* Some Jersey suppliers including Play.com (the R2 site but not PlayUSA.com the R1 site) have a special arrangement through the Jersey post office where they pre-pay the VAT and duty on your behalf for orders over £18. The package will be marked accordingly. In that case there will be no customs charge or admin fee at the UK end.

* Some packages look as though they are shipped from Belgium but they are actually shipped from the international zone at an airport in Belgium so they have not had duty and VAT paid. If the packages contain goods worth more than £18 then they will be subject to duty and VAT in the usual way. (PlayUSA.com used to do it like this for their R1 titles, although they now seem to ship directly from the US or Canada.)

* Some web suppliers of overseas disks seem to re-ship from within the UK. I don't really know how they can afford to do it but I guess they must be paying the customs duty and VAT on every disk, as they themselves are importing the disks as business shipments not personal shipments, and business shipments do not even have the £18 threshold.

* If the customs value of goods is marked in a foreign currency then Customs & Excise will convert the currency into pounds using their own currency conversion tables which are updated every month. You cannot argue with the rate that they use. Beware of this if currency markets are moving rapidly and you think you are only just under the £18 threshold.

* The overseas shipper is supposed to mark the proper customs value of the goods on the customs label. The customs should normally take account of any discounts - e.g. if you order $33 worth of DVDs from KoreanDVDs.com and you have a $1 'mileage credit' then the value of the goods is $32, which is currently (I think) below the £18 threshold but currency rates will change from month to month.

* If you send an email or write in the comments box of your web order "Please mark package value $20" or something like that when the package is worth much more (and if the supplier agrees to do it), then you are committing a fraud which could result in confiscation of the goods and/or criminal charges against you - so you should not do that. On the other hand if the overseas supplier marks the value down without you asking them to (as a few still seem to do) or the supplier simply makes a mistake then personally I don't think you have done anything wrong. But even in that case Customs (or their agent, i.e. the Royal Mail or other shipping agent) would be entitled to open up the package and if they think the value marked is obviously wrong then they can substitute what they think is the proper market value (i.e. probably full UK retail price plus an estimated shipping charge) and charge you customs duty and VAT on that basis.

* The BBFC website states that Customs & Excise will confiscate unclassified disks received by post from overseas suppliers. (Almost all overseas disks will be unclassified, or at least will not show the proper BBFC classification label which the BBFC regards as just as bad.) In fact that information is wrong: Customs & Excise have no power to confiscate disks for that reason so long as it is not obscene material and so long as it is not a UK supplier. On the other hand local Trading Standards Officers do have power to confiscate unclassified disks from UK suppliers, which could include suppliers who 'reship' within the UK. Some in this category were busted in late 2003, while it seems that at least one similar supplier is getting round it by sticking the appropriate BBFC classification label onto the disks they sell so that they become legal in the UK.
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Old 19-02-2004, 12:45   #39
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Quote:
Originally posted by maddogsuk
Good call! I've had a look round the Custom's Links as I was sure computer equipment is expempt from VAT or import duty? I'm sure I read that Sony tried to get the Playstation classed as a computer to avoid tax?
Different kinds of imports have different rates of customs duty. For DVDs the rate is 3.5% like Paul Caygill says. The rate is different for other products - it usually varies between nil and about 22%. For example, the duty rate is much higher for TVs and stereo equipment than it is for computers. That is probably why Sony tried to get the Playstation classed as a computer. For borderline cases, importers have disputes with the authorities like this the whole time.
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Old 19-02-2004, 13:05   #40
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Originally posted by cm-9
Different kinds of imports have different rates of customs duty. For DVDs the rate is 3.5% like Paul Caygill says. The rate is different for other products - it usually varies between nil and about 22%. For example, the duty rate is much higher for TVs and stereo equipment than it is for computers. That is probably why Sony tried to get the Playstation classed as a computer. For borderline cases, importers have disputes with the authorities like this the whole time.
I don't think electronics are exempt or zero rated, but as you say the rate may be different.

What varies is the duty rate, from zero upwards. VAT is 17.5% always unless the item is zero rated for VAT (but those items may still attract duty). The main VAT zero rated items are things like books and childrens clothing.

There are import/export restrictions on some electronic goods, and with computers there are issues with software and hardware that contain encryption technoloogy. This mainly applies to exports from the US. The US has relaxed their restrictions though as the previously "strong" encryption they used to ban is now old hat and US gov have moved onto stronger encryption. Exports to any country they don't like is of course banned
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