ParcelForce thinks it can levy tax!
January 31, 2007 6:59 AM   Subscribe

ParcelForce are holding me to ransom! Anything I can do?

I'm having a parcel delivered from Japan. I got a letter this morning telling me that to receive it, I have to pay parcel force £23.50 -- £10 in tax, and £13.50 "handling fee". They're charging me more than the cost of the already hefty tax, just to do, er, what they already charged the shipper for -- namely, delivering the parcel!

I'm resigned to paying the charlatans for this parcel. Is there anything I can do to prevent it in future? Obviously recipients have no choice over carrier, and in some cases neither do senders. Is it entirely legal? (Bear in mind that this is the UK, where all sorts of things you wouldn't expect are illegal, such as banks charging penalty fees for going overdrawn).

(When queried, they say that it's to cover the cost of the driver to the customs office. I checked. Their depot is *at* the customs office. They then said it was to cover "processing", but wouldn't specify what that was).
posted by bonaldi to Law & Government (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
i have argued this with parcelforce many many times about this.

If a parcel is sent by the post office of whatever country of origin always seems to come in under the radar.
posted by moochoo at 7:24 AM on January 31, 2007

UPS does this too. I also consider it unfair that they can add "fees" that they charge recipient—the parcel has already been paid for, as you say.
posted by grouse at 7:26 AM on January 31, 2007

I've had this happen and had to just bite it and cough up. I think you're paying the VAT on it, plus Parcelforce's ridiculous administrative fee.

I suppose in future if you could have the parcel labelled as a gift (on the customs label), you'd avoid the VAT, but if it's a store you're buying from, they're unlikely to do that as they'd fall foul of their local regulations.

But this won't help you this time - sorry.
posted by dowcrag at 7:31 AM on January 31, 2007

Here's a class-action lawsuit against UPS for similar practices in Canada.
posted by grouse at 7:31 AM on January 31, 2007

Do they calculate the fees based solely on the "declared value" on the customs form, or do they have some other scheme? I routinely send parcels to the UK and would like for my customers not to have problems with "FeeForce". I've thought about underdeclaring the value.
posted by rolypolyman at 7:39 AM on January 31, 2007

UK customs - not Parcelforce - are the ones who have intercepted the parcel and imposed a tax. As the custodians of the parcel they have the choice of either paying the tax on your behalf or not paying the tax and hence (presumably) having the parcel impounded while you come up with the cash. Either way they are bound to incur some extra costs.

As to whether £13.50 is a reasonable fee I would have though that Parcelforce would be open to the same sort of attacks people like Which magazine and the Office of Fair Trading have instigated over bank penalty charges. I would also be interested in the extent to which payment of the postage fee by the sender might contractually oblige Parcelforce to deliver for this same cost - no doubt there is some fairly well-worn legal precedent.
posted by rongorongo at 8:11 AM on January 31, 2007

With UPS, the fee is even higher ($35 here in Canada, $25 is USA, and I understand that it's £15 in the UK).

If there is tax or duty to be paid, there will be such a fee in addition to the tax. Here in Canada, the post office is the cheapest ($5) and FedEx has a sliding scale which is more reasonable ($7.50 for parcels under $70 in value). But the post office only charges us the fee if tax/duty is assessed, while the couriers charge it on every parcel subject to customs inspection (which is everything with a value over $20 here -- $60 for gifts), even if there's no tax to pay.

If you are importing regularly (e.g. as a business), you could hire a customs broker who would perform this service for you instead of the courier or post office. Not only might you save money on the fees (if you have sufficient volume), but they will also make sure you're not paying more tax/duty than you have to.

Also, you can avoid the fees by refusing delivery of the parcel. But this might mean that the sender will have to pay the fees, in addition to paying for the return shipping.
posted by winston at 8:20 AM on January 31, 2007

To be honest you are best to get advise.

Try Consumer Direct 0845 404 05 06 - they are run by the office of fair trading, and are fab. The call will cost you about 10p - and if they are not the people to talk to they will tell you who is.
posted by informity at 9:01 AM on January 31, 2007

Mod note: a few comments removed. if you are ever tempted to post gyofb in an AskMe thread, you should take it to metatalk or email.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:06 AM on January 31, 2007

I assume that you are not also the sender of the parcel - i.e. it's something you've ordered online or from ebay or whatever?

If so then, as you point out, you have no choice in the courier. It is the sender's choice, and it is the sender who has a contract with ParcelForce. Arguably, ParcelForce should be pursuing this with the sender. Effectively, what rongorongo said.

Conversely, if the parcel were delivered late or lost, then ParcelForce would absolutely refuse to speak to you about it, as it is the sender that must make the claim.

Point of interest... did you have any agreement regarding the postage with the sender of the parcel?
posted by saintsguy at 2:25 PM on January 31, 2007

If the item was worth less money than declared on the customs forms, or less than customs has decided it was worth, you could ask the seller to submit a correction to whoever holds the item. I've no idea how this will work with Parcel Force, but with UPS in Canada it is practically magic.

For example, a shipper writes $50 on a $10 item, thinking it won't matter, so it arrives with a big COD (surprisingly common when Americans ship to Canada for the first time). You get them to fax UPS with the corrected info, and UPS delivers the package as if there was never any COD at all. Awesome!

This is much harder with the post office.. I think you have to pay first, and then submit correcting info by mail, then one day you might get a refund. I'm not sure though, I've never gone through the process.

For the record, the UPS Standard to Canada (aka UPS Ground) fees are: the actual local sales tax, a ~$5 COD fee, a ~$5 cash dispersal fee, and a customs brokerage fee based on the value of the item (see link for specifics). If you know you will have to pay, you can get in touch with UPS before the package arrives and give them a method of payment. I'm not sure if you can get out of both the COD and cash dispersal fee, but I'm pretty sure you can at least get out of one of them. There may even be some better ways, I've heard something about clearing the item yourself, to avoid the brokerage fee, but again, I've never done that, so..
posted by Chuckles at 11:56 PM on January 31, 2007

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