By Irene Gaitirira
Published November 22, 2015
Though gift-shoppers are increasingly turning to online portals for the convenience they offer, especially during the Christmas and New Year holiday, many of them are unaware that they could incur unexpected expenses when receiving purchases from abroad.
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While local consumers are embracing the shift towards e-commerce, says Oliver Facey, Vice-President of Operations for DHL Express in charge of sub-Saharan Africa, Unfortunately, many of these shoppers are unaware of the regulations involved with importing products purchased online from international retailers.
Facey explains that consumers are often caught off-guard when their shipments and gifts arrive from international origins with unexpected additional charges.
These charges, Facey says, “are incurred when going through Customs where, depending on the type of goods being shipped, parcels may be subject to duties and taxes.”
Explaining that all shipments transported across international borders must be cleared through Customs, Facey says “gifts such as back scratcher packs, jewelry, clothes and the like are not necessarily exempted from duties and taxes.”
“Import duties and taxes differ in each country and are usually calculated as a percentage of the item value but in certain instances they could also be a flat fee, depending on the product type,” says Oliver Facey. “Import shipments may also be subject to interventions by Customs where the price, contents and country of manufacture are often investigated to mitigate a wide range of risks. This could result in delivery delays as well as additional costs.”
He says that as many consumers make use of e-commerce platforms to purchase and send gifts, especially during the festive season, they need to take note of the receiving country’s regulations to avoid the recipient being liable for additional charges.
While Customs bureaus in Angola have legislated tax-free exemptions for gifts to an individual as long as the value is less than US$350, the limit in Zimbabwe is US$50, South Africa ZAR400 and Tanzania US$15.
“Online shopping offers convenience and in many instances, cost savings, so once consumers become familiar with their local regulations, they will be able to reap the rewards. Customs duties and taxes are unfortunately beyond the control of shipping companies, and are regulated by the Government of the relevant countries,” Facey says.