Online selling to Europe from the US?
December 9, 2004 11:16 AM   Subscribe

(E)URO-COMMERCE filter - i run a mail order business and web site and entertain fantasies of doing the same in europe. does anyone have any knowledge of the shipping/postage/tax/duties situation for inter-european shipping? are there examples of companies who serve europe the way small e-tailers are able to server the whole US via UPS or thhe US mail?
posted by subpixel to Work & Money (7 answers total)
Could you be more specific? You question isn't very clear...
Where are you based? What kind of service are you looking for? Shipping is one thing, tax is another, and duties yet another one.
posted by rubin421 at 11:24 AM on December 9, 2004

Response by poster: i sell gifts and apparel. i'm in new york and get goods from the US and europe and then sell them retail to the US (via UPS) and internationally (via US Global Priority Mail).

if i wanted to do the same in london or paris would it be so simple?
posted by subpixel at 11:56 AM on December 9, 2004

My info may be out of date, but I worked for a company trying to do the same thing in 2000 (so very likely, before a lot of EU rules were hammered out). The restrictions on what was allowed into which company were REALLY complicated, and the duties were often REALLY high. There was not, at that time, any one company that was working with US companies to simplify -- or even explain -- the rules.

We were also dealing with foodstuffs, though, so YMMV.
posted by occhiblu at 12:04 PM on December 9, 2004

Response by poster: just found this - not much by way of response:
posted by subpixel at 12:08 PM on December 9, 2004

Some random thoughts (without having followed the links in the Google Answers question that subpixel mentions, which do look informative):

* You might contact chamber of commerces (foreign equivalent?) that are interested in getting businesses to come to their country (or part of a country), and can help you with specific questions. So one challenge is to narrow down exactly where you might locate.

* Any website you set up for European sales is going to have to provide pages in different languages, if you want to be competitive. That's a challenge.

* Have you thought at all about how you going to do to market your products? It's all well-and-good to spend money to have inventory and a sales channel (web), but if no one knows you're selling stuff, then you're not going to make sales.

* Perhaps a joint venture of some sort with an existing firm in Europe would make more sense? Given the inevitable legal/regulatory requirements for a new business, the different social customs and procedures, language differences, etc., is this something that you want to jump into head-first?

* The shipping part isn't really the most challenging, I'd guess: DHL, for example, serves all of Europe, and if you stay within the (core?) European Union, then customs isn't an issue, as there are none (I think).
posted by WestCoaster at 12:21 PM on December 9, 2004

There are no Customs issues shipping between member countries of the EU. If I remember correctly the VAT is collect at the rate in effect in the country where the order is taken or possibly from which the goods are shipped.
posted by Carbolic at 2:26 PM on December 9, 2004

Intra-EU VAT is a very complicated thing.
But anyways, as a NY corporation (or LLC) operating a website located in the US, I don't think you have to worry about VAT or sales tax at all.
I would have to look deeper into it, but I'm not even sure the EU directives on e-commerce would apply to your situation.
What you do have to worry about is the international convention governing the international sale of goods.
posted by rubin421 at 4:02 PM on December 9, 2004

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