Your browser is no longer supported. For the best experience of this website, please upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

We are setting up fashion ecommerce for the first time and have an international customer base -

should we include customs and duty rates upfront in the transaction or leave it to those to be levied at the local level? We don’t want to put the customer off with these charges , nor want to make packages get held up at the borders. What the best thing to do?

There are two things to consider for you. One is that you should always tell your customers how much they are going to pay in the end. The other is to protect yourself from having to pay duty fines for not correctly declaring the contents of the packages you are sending to destinations outside the EU. This is includes Switzerland and Sweden as they are not part of the EU.

Not communicating shipping/duty cost early on in the process is one of the biggest drop off factors in online shopping.

For international customers it is important to see the price Ex-Vat but at the same time what the shipping cost will be and, as mentioned earlier, how much import duty will have to be paid. You can technically only calculate this once the delivery address is entered, but you could offer a little tool that “estimates” this.

Tell them what method of duty billing you will be using and how much they can expect these additional charges to be. Nothing could be worse than receiving an eagerly awaited package only to be grated by an unexpected bill for duty.

Finally, you should state very clearly how you will be handling returns from overseas customers. Just as they had to pay import duty for having goods delivered, you will need to pay import duty for goods sent back to you. You can either swallow these or pass this on to the customer. Either through making them pay for this upfront or deducting the amount of the refund.

The technically difficult part is how to actually calculate these things. Fortunately the big shipping companies, UPS, DHL, FedEx etc. offer tools for merchants that help doing this. All of these companies offer APIs with which you can calculate duty based on price, country of origin, shipping country etc. Most of them offer as well to take care of collecting and declaring duties that need to be paid and they can charge the receiver on delivery.

You should always opt for an integrated solution that offers you to print shipping labels as well. Again, the bigger companies offer software that will help you create the correct labels. Not only will this lower the cost and time spent when the delivery guy picks up today’s load, it will help you avoid unnecessary trouble at the border as well.

Fadi Shuman, Co-Founder & Ecommerce Director, Pod1 London/New York

Readers' comments (1)

  • Two inaccuracies here - I hate to correct the expert, but the most important thing is that the correct information is provided!

    Firstly, Sweden is in the EU (perhaps getting confused there with Norway, which is not).

    Secondly, it's NOT necessary to pay customs duty etc on returned items from outside the EU if they are declared as "returned British goods rejected by sender" and there is paperwork available to back this up. We ship internationally with FedEx and accept non-EU returns via FedEx only. If there is a return, we simply let FedEx know the original airway bill number of the outbound shipment to the customer making the return. The return clears customs without any fuss - or duty!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.