MCA reminds online buyers about possible extra charges

Buyers might have to pay extra on non-EU packages

(source/Unsplash/Samuel Zeller)

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As buying products have become increasingly quick and easy through our handheld smart devices, buyers are ever more likely to purchase goods from abroad. Despite the prices international online retailers offer, consumers might need to cough up additional charges on goods arriving from abroad, especially non-EU countries, the Malta Communication Authority (MCA) reminds.

The digital world influences nearly 60% of all retail sales globally. Ecommerce is expected to soon account for 15% of all specialty retail sales in North America, while the vertical has cut a 23% pie of all retail in China. As fuelled by a 55% increase in mobile sales, ecommerce in North America grew by 16% in 2018 to over $500 billion, according to 10 Ecommerce Trends 2019 published by Absolunet, an international ecommerce agency and integrator.

Malta also appears to follow worldwide trends. More than half of digital buyers in Malta prefer to use ecommerce marketplaces to conduct their initial research, with 42% of them turning to search engines as a secondary option, according to 2017 figures published by the MCA. The number of consumers purchasing online around two to three times a month increased to 33% in 2017 from 20% in 2014. While buyers would cherry-pick items from local online shops, ordering from abroad has stayed strong, the MCA finds.

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With the popularity of ordering online from outside the European Union growing, the authority has warned that end-users in Malta might need to pay extra charges when purchasing goods from abroad. Additional charges that may apply include processing fees associated with customs, health or border inspections clearance, the MCA adds.

Postal items including medicines and health products may be inspected by the Port Health Office (PHO), while imported live animals and products of animal origin may be inspected by the Border Inspection Post (BIP), the MCA reminds.

On the occasion of such an inspection, the postal operator delivers the postal item to the relevant office, and MaltaPost applies an administrative fee of €5. For the same handling DHL Malta applies a fee of €35.40, the MCA adds. This administrative fee covers the cost of processing the item and obtaining the necessary clearances, the MCA says.

Goods from non-EU countries

Charges applied by postal operators or couriers to their customers to handle clearance of goods received from non-EU countries vary considerably from one operator to another, as different charging mechanisms are applied, which may also vary depending on the cost of the goods being delivered.

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According to the couriers’ websites, UPS can have a minimum charge of €16 and DHL Malta might apply a minimum charge of €12. Postal service company MaltaPost Plc applies the following mechanisms, as published by the MCA:

  • €4 for packages having items with a total value between €22.01 and €49.99
  • €5 for packages having items with a total value between €50 and €99.99
  • €6 for packages having items with a total value between €100 and €149.99
  • €8 for packages having items with a total value between €150 and €299.99
  • €10 for packages having items with a total value between €300 and €419.99
  • €15 for packages having items with a total value between €420 and €799.99 €18 for packages having items with a total value worth more than €800

“Customs clearance administrative fees (in the form of processing fees, advancement fee for payment of duty and VAT on behalf of the recipient, or similar fees described differently) are not subject to regulatory control by MCA. However, measures are being taken by the authority to ensure that customers are sufficiently informed of such charges beforehand, and not at the point of collection of the ordered goods,” the MCA report says.

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As such, buyers are highly advised to liaise with a seller operating from outside the European Union whether it is possible to indicate beforehand which local postal operator or courier will deliver the item. As an additional precaution, customers can place an enquiry with the local postal operator or courier about any processing charges that may be applicable for clearing the goods through customs.

Any enquiries regarding applicable Value Added Tax (VAT), Customs Duty Tax and Excise Duty Tax should be referred to the Department of Customs, the MCA adds.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Any charge this article carries is based on information valid at the time of the publication.

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