Customs Issues with e-Commerce Shipments from China

 In Import

There is an increasing amount of goods coming into Europe through online purchases by consumers and businesses alike. The Netherlands has seen a rise of 20-30% in the number of customs declarations for goods coming from outside the EU. According to Dutch newspaper Financieel Dagblad (FD), the Dutch Customs Authority is having trouble keeping up with that. They have become short staffed.

Ali Bye Bye

While Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the leadership team of the Dutch Customs Authority have tried, in vain, to get Alibaba to open their European distribution center in the Netherlands, the Chinese e-tailer has opted for Belgium. According to FD’s sources, the customs agents doing the actual work are happy about that.

Big is Better

Question is if the Customs Authority is creating more work than is necessary. Especially the smaller freight forwarders are having problems declaring the e-commerce shipments coming into the Netherlands. The Dutch Customs keep asking for invoices and proofs of purchases, which are often not present with such shipments.

All is Fair in Love and Customs?

Bigger forwarders don’t seem to share the issues. DHL, for example, tells FD they are not having significant problems declaring their non-EU e-commerce related shipments. The question arises whether these large forwarders are handling customs procedures better, or if they more often than not get the benefit of the doubt. According to Dutch attorney Bart Boersma it seems that, however unfair, this is actually happening. Boersma is suing the Dutch Customs Authority on behalf of a client facing (they claim) unfair scrutiny. Boersma’s client has developed a system that could electronically take care of the declaration of the goods, but instead of accepting the electronic process Customs agents are checking everything manually. The backlog this is creating is causing Boersma’s client huge delays in delivering to their end customers.

Ask an Expert

Due to the volume, the complexity, and the approach the Dutch Customs Authority is taking, some companies have stopped processing e-commerce shipments coming from China. If you are thinking of importing goods from China, make sure you have the expertise to get your shipments past Dutch Customs without delay. If you don’t have that expertise, get in touch with experts that do…    

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