If you buy something online and then find it's being shipped from abroad, the company should make this clear on its website
I bought a battery from the Laptop Battery Shop website. I paid £35.88 plus £6.47 postage using my credit card but it was made to the website’s Paypal account. When I checked the order, I found it was being despatched from Singapore. When the Post Office comes to deliver the battery, will I get a bill for other duty?
The site says all orders are shipped by Royal Mail unless otherwise stated. It omits any reference to an overseas carrier and doesn’t have an overseas address.
Goods imported into the UK from outside the EU, even if they are gifts, can be liable for additional charges such as customs duty, excise duty and Vat and sometimes all three.
Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC) told us: “Companies should make it clear to buyers if they are not charging Vat and if using a .co.uk domain, that they are based outside the EU.
Mr Marriott should check that the company didn’t charge him Vat however. If it didn’t, he would pay Vat as the relief threshold for this is £18 and Royal Mail or the carrier will collect this and they do make additional charges.”
The good news for Mr Marriot is that the site clearly states that “For all UK orders, Vat is included within product price.” So he shouldn’t have to pay this again.
HMRC said he won’t be liable for customs or excise duty. Excise duty is only payable on alcohol and tobacco. Customs duty only applies to goods over £135 – even then if the customs duty is less than £9 it is waived.
We visited the site to see if we could find out where the company is located, as it was shipping the battery from Singapore. Importing goods from overseas isn’t the problem, but there was little information about the company on the site. There is no address and the only terms and conditions are based on the company’s warranty.
If this company is based in the UK, or within the EU, these omissions are clear breaches of the Distance Selling Regulations and ecommerce law.
We have used the web form and email given on the site to contact the company and put some questions to it, including where it is based and why it doesn’t make this clear to customers. We also asked it to provide its Vat registration number but have received no response.
People can get some fantastic bargains if they choose to buy from overseas retailers. But getting redress can be difficult and there are the extra charges to consider, which can bump up the price.
There is a good website HMRC has set up – a guide for international post users – where you can check out when additional charges such as excise duty, customs duty and Vat become payable for goods imported into the UK from both within and outside the EU.
For goods costing £18 or less there is no Vat to pay, however there are some exceptions to this rule so people should check the site. Customs duty becomes payable if goods cost £135 or upwards, but if the duty is less than £9 it will be waived.
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