UPS wants to charge me brokerage fees AFTER I rejected the parcel!?
December 17, 2013 1:48 PM   Subscribe

Hello folks, I live in Canada (Toronto), and I ordered an item (worth US$200) from the USA about a month ago, and the seller used UPS to ship it to me. As I have never used UPS before, I was not aware of their negative reputation at the time of the online purchase. Well, about two weeks later, I received the UPS notice for a delivery attempt, and I was hugely surprised at the brokerage charge (CAN$70). Usually I do not get charged any brokerage fees at all when sellers use USPS to ship to me (because USPS hands the parcel to CanadaPost, which has never charged me brokerage fees, in my experience).

So, with the brokerage fee being an unexpected (expensive) surprise, I rejected the parcel, and the parcel was sent back to the seller. The seller then gave me a refund for the item, minus the shipping charges for both ways (US$20 each way, so altogether US$40 was deducted from my refund).

Well, just today, I received in the mail a letter from UPS stating that I have to pay them the brokerage fee of CAN$70. ARE THEY ALLOWED TO EVEN DO THIS!? I REJECTED the parcel, so I shouldn't have to pay the brokerage fee. Is this correct?

I plan to call them soon to inquire about this issue. It's totally ridiculous. The whole reason I rejected the parcel in the first place was BECAUSE I didn't want to pay the brokerage fee.
posted by vanizorc to Work & Money (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry to be a contrarian, but your logic doesn't hold. They cleared a package on your behalf, they are entitled to payment. Whether you kept the goods or thought the fee was unfair is irrelevant, they still performed a service on your behalf they should be paid for.

And for the record, the fee is outrageous, but if you call them first and get a quote for the goods coming in the price should be much more reasonable.
posted by Keith Talent at 2:01 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Similarly, you acknowledge UPS is entitled to the delivery fee, even though you rejected the package. They did the work to earn the fee, even if you never accepted the delivery.

By the same token, they did the work clearing customs. They're entitled to their fee for it, regardless of whether you accepted the package.

Whether there is a legal basis in Canada to avoid paying the charge is beyond my ken. This is not legal advice, and I am not your lawyer.

Good luck.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:07 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't find this at all as clear-cut as the previous commenters. If you never agreed to pay UPS for this service, I'm not sure why they'd have a right to charge you for it. (If I show up at your house uninvited and mow your lawn, then present you with a bill for $500, do you have to pay it?) But I am not a lawyer either. However, there was a successful class action lawsuit against UPS in Ontario a few years ago related to this practice, and another class-action suit in BC.

This page claims that "when a casual shipment is delivered to you, you can refuse delivery and advise the courier company of your intention to self-clear directly with the CBSA. In this case, please ensure that you take note of the unique shipment identifier number on the package, as the shipment will be returned to the courier’s warehouse."
posted by mbrubeck at 2:40 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @mbrubeck: That's exactly what I'm thinking! From the self-research I have accumulated over the years, it is to my knowledge that if the buyer REFUSES the parcel (for whatever grounds, but in my case it was specifically because I didn't want to pay the ridiculous brokerage fee), the buyer is then free from the obligation to pay the brokerage fee. After all, UPS did not successfully deliver the parcel to me, and I never received the parcel as I had returned the parcel to the seller.

And thank you for that link to the class-action lawsuit case -- do you know if this lawsuit claim against UPS was successful? (The PDF claim statement doesn't mention whether it was successful or not.)

If UPS threatens collections against me for refusing to pay them the brokerage fee after I rejected the parcel, do I have a defensible case against UPS?
(Interestingly, the FAQ section on the UPS website is very vague about situations such as this.)
posted by vanizorc at 2:59 PM on December 17, 2013

When my company requests a courier to assist with a FedEx or ups package going thru customs, my company pays the courier, because we hired the courier. No courier just shows up and facilitates without a hire. Who hired the courier here?
posted by Tandem Affinity at 2:59 PM on December 17, 2013

Response by poster: @ Tandem Affinity: I don't quite understand what you mean by the question "who hired the courier"? I purchased the item from a seller on Ebay, for which they used UPS as the shipping service.

(Since I had not used UPS before -- and thus didn't know about their tendency for surprise brokerage fees -- I went along with it and made my payment to the Ebay seller.)
posted by vanizorc at 3:04 PM on December 17, 2013

I get that you ordered this, but what would happen in the case of an unsolicited package from someone? Would you still have to pay? This sounds odd that you have to pay a fee when you returned the package. This may be an issue between you and the seller though.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:10 PM on December 17, 2013

Response by poster: @ JohnnyGunn: That's precisely my contention -- from all the research I've done, I've gleaned that when the buyer rejects the parcel, and it is returned to the seller, customs/duties/brokerage cannot be charged to them, let alone the full CAN$70 fee UPS is requesting from me.

Is UPS trying to scam me for money? If so, can I file a legal complaint against them?
posted by vanizorc at 3:18 PM on December 17, 2013

By the way, I've also had the experience of being charged brokerage fees by UPS in Canada. In response to questions from other commenters, the way this works is that the sender of the package pays the regular delivery changes to send the package through UPS, and then UPS demands that that the recipient pay an additional "brokerage" fee on delivery before the package will be released.

The 2011 decision granting partial summary judgement in the Ontario court case found that "there was no agreement to provide a brokerage service and charge an additional fee. The service was unsolicited" [529] and "The UPS waybill and IPSO falsely represent the total cost for the standard service customer... Simply put, the waybill and the IPSO are false, misleading and deceptive" [543]. I don't know whether UPS has changed their practices at all since then, though it sounds like they haven't. (Last I read, they are still appealing the decision.)

Again, I'm not a lawyer and I don't know whether or how you should refuse to pay the brokerage fee, but this may be useful in convincing UPS to back down.
posted by mbrubeck at 3:40 PM on December 17, 2013

Response by poster: @ mbrubeck: In the last few hours, I browsed the internet for similar, past lawsuits against UPS. Looks like there are quite a few of these lawsuits against UPS. I just read one article that in July 2011, an Ontario judge ruled in favor of the plaintiff that UPS practices violated the Consumer Protection Act with the way they went about charging brokerage fees. UPS has since filed an appeal against this decision, and I believe the court system is still pending this.

So, worst comes to worst, I'm planning to bring up these lawsuit cases with UPS if they do threaten me with collections. They never delivered the parcel to me, and the seller has since received the returned parcel from me, so I should not be obligated to pay the bogus UPS brokerage fees.
posted by vanizorc at 4:31 PM on December 17, 2013

So I ran into this in the US - I returned the package because I couldn't imagine what I had ordered from Germany, and eventually figured out it was a Very CHEAP Amazon purchase. UPS badgered me for the fees for long enough that I gave in and paid them. Over a year later, they sent me a refund.

Maybe there's some chance that the brokerage dept can be dealt with sanely if you can actually contact them.
posted by ansate at 4:59 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

To followup, my knowledge of importing stuff into the US thru Fedex or UPS is that a courier is not required. It is often a good idea for smoother processing, but I have imported plenty of purchases from Finland without a courier. After a few delays in customs, we decided it would be better to use a courier, but that has to be initiated by me or the receiver - Fedex has never spontaneously hired a courier without our request. Perhaps it is different for imports to Canada or for your particular product? Anyway, I was just trying to raise the question in your case because in my experience whoever hires the courier pays the courier and adds that cost to "shipping and handling". Hope you can find resolution through the other perhaps better informed responses.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 5:14 PM on December 17, 2013

Try writing them a stern letter disputing the charge and citing the lawsuits linked above. They will probably stop bothering you.
posted by windykites at 6:27 PM on December 17, 2013

Response by poster: @Tandem Affinity: I just contacted the Ebay seller moments ago, and they responded that when they received the returned parcel, UPS charged THEM a return fee of US$36 as well. After charging the seller, UPS is STILL hassling for more money! Absolutely ridiculous. I believe that -- especially -- after charging the seller this "return fee", they have no grounds to charge me brokerage!
posted by vanizorc at 6:33 PM on December 17, 2013

Response by poster: @ windykites: I am planning to do exactly that -- writing UPS an email citing the links to the Ontario decision and other lawsuits against them.
posted by vanizorc at 6:36 PM on December 17, 2013

Mod note: Hey there, vanizorc, moderator here. Just to let you know, at AskMetafilter it is not really customary for the asker to reply to each answer or to elaborate your position in the thread. The custom here is that you ask, and people answer, and you can choose the answers you find most useful. Ordinarily you'd only comment in the thread if you need to clarify a specific point. Thanks.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:34 PM on December 17, 2013

Response by poster: @ LobsterMitten: Understood.
posted by vanizorc at 8:35 PM on December 17, 2013

I used to deal with UPS to ship packages internationally all the time. They're good at shipping within the continental U.S., but from my experience international shipping was something of a debacle.

You need to try to escalate this higher and higher up the chain of customer service. Their base level customer support is awful. I think it's designed to be intentionally frustrating, so that the average customer will give up and go away. They do have helpful people further up the chain who can take care of this for you. I would try their business support line or something similar. Just keep pushing and pushing until you get someone with actual authority. May or may not be worth $70.
posted by hamsterdam at 11:14 AM on December 18, 2013

I rejected a package one time because of the high brokerage fee, when I was living in Vancouver, BC. For me, it worked fine. The package (forgotten sunglasses) went back to my step-dad, I didn't owe anything to UPS, and I picked up my sunglasses the next time I went to the US. So, just one data point that it seems like it should have worked the way you thought it did.
posted by Margalo Epps at 4:26 PM on December 18, 2013

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