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Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead
It was my sister’s birthday and for her present, she wanted a jumper from a gorgeous, French-aesthetic brand. Being 7 months pregnant, she was unsure of the size she’d need, so I ordered two sizes and also threw in a top that I’d had my eye on for a while. I’d ordered from this brand many times before and didn’t think anything of it – until DHL contacted me, saying I needed to pay customs fees of £104.96. Something, I have to say, which came as a bit of a surprise to say the least…
When I contacted the brand’s head office, they claimed there was nothing they could do and pointed to a tiny sentence on their delivery page which pointed out, somewhat vaguely, that if your country charges customs and duty fines then it’s up to you, as the consumer, to pay them.
I was confused. I’d bought from this brand before, there hadn’t been anything to say that the parcel would come from abroad and the fine was around 50% of the order value. What had changed?
Well, Brexit. And it seems I’m not the only one who’s been stung; over the last couple of weeks, consumers have been taking to social media and news outlets in their droves, all with similar stories.
According to the BBC, a government spokesperson said: “The new VAT model ensures goods from EU and non-EU countries are treated in the same way and that UK businesses are not disadvantaged by competition from VAT-free imports. The new system also addresses the problem of overseas sellers failing to pay the right amount of VAT when they sell goods in the UK. We anticipate this will bring in £300m in tax every year, to fund essential UK public services.”
Whilst some brands are offering partial reimbursement or, in my case, offering a credit note (although, given I’ve need to buy something online to use it, that might start a customs fine cycle of doom…) it’s not a sustainable solution to an on-going problem. Like many consumers, the issue boiled down to two things: the shock of receiving the fine and the amount that it came to. For me personally, I’ll personally never buy from this brand again and I’ll be doing more research to ensure I’m not accidentally buying something from outside of the UK – why risk it?
However, whilst this issue is facing consumers buying from the EU, it’s also affecting EU customers buying from the UK or importing stock, too. So, what information can retailers use to help make this process as smooth as possible and how can our solutions help?
Gemma Woodlock, our Head of Consultancy and Pre-Sales, said: “Both Merret Pro and OMIO PIM capture ‘Country of Origin’ data and aligns with tariffs as part of the purchase order process for landed costs. The ‘Composition’ function captures the make-up of a product and percentages of specific materials to contribute to each part. This can then be expanded out to not only capture the composition elements such as the main fabric, lining, cuffs, sleeves etc, but retailers can create an additional element called ‘Manufactured’. This element could be split between two parts – what’s manufactured in the UK and manufactured non-UK – which retailers could then set a percentage against each part, with a total adding up to 100%. Retail teams can then extract styles where the manufactured UK is greater than a certain percentage. Using our solutions, retailers have the ability to capture that detail and use it to comply with tariff requirements.”
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