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Customs is YOUR responsibility

Dealing with your countries customs is your responsibility


There have now been 2 cases of goods getting lost due to time limits exceeded that customs sets for collecting incoming items. One in Italy - a pretty expensive spare part that apparently after not being collected for 4 weeks from Italian customs got lost - it was never returned to India (or to me at least).

Now a second such incident happened in France - the French customs announced that they returned the item (a 477 set) but even if that is so it will usually take months (plural) to reach back to me, I may or may not be available at the time of the return and although if things work out the way they are set up that should not be a problem (this is a hotel and things get dropped at the reception) I can and will NOT take responsibility if these items are lost.

Every receiver of shipments from us gets a picture of his package with a tracking code and a link to the tracking site sent via email. It is the sole responsibility of the receiver to make sure he tracks it and knows when it reaches his home country and is ready to be picked up from customs.

Do NOT rely on customs officials to inform you, call you or send you a letter - they may, or they may not. In Germany they never do and if you are not checking it yourself then the item is sent back after 2 weeks - no exceptions. Sometimes the mailman will deliver the item to the door and collect customs duty at that time but you can not rely on this service.

At the same time the question of how to declare that value is an issue. We always automatically declare a customs CN22 form which is part of the address label. This form is the normal way to declare the value and nature of the item and its country of origin. But sometimes customs wants a more detailed invoice which we will provide if requested BY YOU - you can either request it before we ship (it will be attached to the parcel outside) or you can get it as pdf sent to you any time after shipping has been done. The choice is yours.

In some cases customs of the receiver country does not accept the value we state (which is always the value the item has in its natural unmodified form in India) - but customs got smarter, they know there is a markup - they may not know how much but having them guess it can delay the delivery substantially or even lead to rejection and the sending back (or impounding!) of the package.

Of course I will help to the limits of what I can do in such cases - but it may not be enough to retrieve what was lost  and you must realize that ultimately the responsibility lies with you.

I also want to point out that in all the years of shipping stuff via EMS or even the normal postal parcel service not a single package has not reached its destination. And some have even been retuned to me. So the postal service itself is inherently reliable. But not picking it up in time can easily wreck that statistic!

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Customs is a bit like gambling in Las Vegas

We have had all kinds of experiences with customs in all kinds of countries. In some countries they care less or not at all - even big and expensive packages are left uncharged with import duty - that may be so because india still has the status a of developing country - at least officially - and some receiver countries do not levy any duty on goods from India.

Others do and of those some are very easy going and generally charge according to the CN22 declaration we attach to the parcel - but on the other hand some bored officials spend their time playing detective and finding out the "real" price vs. the declared one - and if there is a difference impound the goods, send them back to us or charge the receiver a punitive charge on top of the duty. All this has happened.

Unfortunately there is not hard rule - e.g. in GB the customs from India is often very low or zero. In Australia as well. In Germany they did charge us over the declared value (and close to the real value) and in other cases did not charge us at all. IN some cases we had to collect the parcel from the customs office (a 50 km ride) in others the mailman delivered and charged us at the door.

All these different things happened while using EMS as transport service (or regular mail in case of Australia) so the selection of the carrier is not part of this equation. Quite the contrary - the longest period we had to wait for release of an item from Delhi customs was 2.5 month - and it was shipped with FedEx!!

So make sure you tell us what kind of invoice you want, the Indian value or the value you really paid for the item. Its your game.

Example: if we ship a 477 full set it is packaged in the OEM cylinder box with the RE label intact which shows a price of 6600 INR - roughly 80 Euros. This value is also declared in the CN22 customs form attached to the address label.

Now customs can likely not discern a stock cylinder from a 477 AND if they open it they see it was machined so earlier we declared a "repaired" cylinder set and put the value even lower. But as mentioned above that is often not accepted anymore because they know there is a markup - and in Germany they actually check on ebay or amazon what a similar thing costs and use that price.

However unless you ask us to put another value we will use the label price of the item for the declaration.

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Firtan has reacted to this post.

here is an interesting arcticle from the web regarding Delhi customs - as an example. In one short sentence: they suck bigtime.

There is nothing wrong with India Post. The bottle-neck is the Customs Department attached to the Foreign Post Offices. They are grossly under-staffed and can check just about 160–180 parcels a day, while more than 1,500 arrive each day at each FPO. The pile just keeps on growing with the result, suddenly the Customs Department allow all small parcels through without a check and the ones which are say more than 20 cm by 20 cm by 10 cm, keep accumulating. I had recently visited one the high volume FPOs, and found the piles of disorganised inward parcels piled up and the Customs personnel opening (and closing the parcels after inspection), at snail’s pace with just 4–5 persons for it. The Post Office is very prompt. The day the Customs clearance takes place, the Post Office rushes the parcel over to the delivery Post Office for delivery within a day or two. On the other hand, a parcel which arrived on, say 6th April at the FPO, was inspected by Customs Department as late as 29th April, more than 3 weeks later. After assessing it was handed over to the India Posts, who delivered it within 24 hours (since the delivery city was same as the FPO city).

Should the parcel have any information missing, or not mentioned by the consignor, the Customs Department does not have anyone to write to the addressee to seek clarifications. The parcel just lies there with them, not for days, but months at time and the addressee keeps wondering what is wrong with India Post.

India Posts has a online Grievance page and a Grievance Call-Centre, which too is quite efficient. The problem is that Customs Department which is the main bottle-neck does not have any Call Centre, and India Posts cannot answer for them. While Customs Department is a Revenue earner, their staff problem is very very acute and there is no redressal mechanism for the addressee.

As a sample you can see the customs was unhappy with the CN22 and wanted a real invoice - but for some reason the receiver took too long to supply them with it (although we immediately sent it - same day).

The customs then sent it back after only 17 days. So you do not have a lot of time - alas: watch the tracking!

Now its on its way back to us, has already reached Mumbay, because it is a return customs should be without problem - but you never know in India ...



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