Package stuck in customs: What to do?

Buying goods from China is convenient; especially if it concerns replacement products or goods that are exorbitantly priced in Europe.

This is not about unfair competition, but simply about being able to offer its customers decent quality goods at a low cost. And you know how necessary it is these days to hold on to work.

On the other hand, even the most important brands and companies exploit the Chinese market to increase their profits.

However, beyond the convenience of buying wholesale products from China, it could involve some risk, such as having your parcel stuck in customs. What should I do? Who can I contact for information? Are there any companies that can make your job easier?

Package stuck in customs: why does it happen?

package stuck in customs

With globalization, the exchange of goods takes place more quickly than a few decades ago.

The products are shipped faster and can reach their destination in a short time. To facilitate the exchange of goods, without a doubt, is the Internet: thanks to a simple connection and a means of telematic payment (PayPal, credit card, AliPay, etc.), buying and selling online is a breeze.

Visit the website, choose your products, place an order for the items you’ve added to your virtual shopping basket, choose your shipping location, and pay instantly. After that, in just a few days, the package will be at home.

Longer times are required if the goods come from abroad, from countries such as America or China: many retailers resident in these territories do not have warehouses in the European Union, as it happens with companies that collaborate directly with Amazon.

And it is precisely China that raises a few more problems because of the reputation that has been created over the years.

You say China, and you think of counterfeit products, goods that are not in line with European regulations, goods made by exploiting cheap labor, and clothing that could create health problems.

When purchasing products from China online, especially wholesale, there is a fair chance that the parcel will remain stuck at customs.

This does not mean that whenever you buy from companies like Alibaba you will have the doubt that the package will not reach you at home, but simply that you may encounter some small difficulties at customs.

The conditional is mandatory, because those who buy wholesale do so to resell the goods in Italy by proposing them to the so-called ” final consumer ”. This is the person who will use the product you market and will make use of it depending on the type of goods purchased.

To protect the health and safety of the final consumer, there are numerous European laws that define how a product should be made and sold within the European Union. If the goods do not comply with these unique rules for all EU countries, the packages could remain at customs.

European regulations do not only concern the way in which a commodity is produced (think of the type of material used to produce a T-shirt, the alloy used to make the pots, the dyes and the plastics of which many toys are made, etc…), but they concern different areas, such as:

  • The documents accompanying the goods (the certificates do not comply with European regulations or are insufficient);
  • The type of goods traded (the import of certain products is strictly prohibited by European laws);
  • Counterfeiting of traded products;
  • The declared price compared to the actual price.

There is a clear difference between European trade and international trade. While the first is based on one of the fundamental principles of the European Union, namely the free movement of goods, the second encounters many difficulties when the exchange takes place between a European country and a non-European country, such as Italy and China.

Today, European trade is simplified by several rules and facilitated by the new Customs Code, which is valid for all EU countries that want the complete digitalization of the customs system between now and 2020.

International trade, on the other hand, is based on customary principles and agreements concluded by the European Union together with third countries. These agreements are intended to establish a trade policy designed to encourage free trade, identify customs tariffs, protect intellectual and industrial property, and protect the rights of the final consumer who will benefit from those goods.

For this reason, a package purchased from China could remain blocked at customs.

Package stuck in customs: how does it happen?

package stuck in customs

You notice that your parcel has been blocked at customs in two ways:

  1. through a direct communication made by the person in charge of customs clearance of goods;
  2. checking the status of the order through the use of the famous track number. (click here to track your package from China).

It is not necessarily the Customs Agency responsible for controlling the use of the authorizations issued, but it can also be the National Postal Service that deals with the sorting of goods arriving from abroad, as it happens in Italy for example.

It is the only intermediary in shipments that take place between a European country and a non-European country, even when an express courier is relied on to deliver the products.

Communication regarding problems encountered at customs could take place using the contact details you left at the time of purchase: telephone number or, possibly, an email address are the most popular ways to contact someone.

If you do not receive any communication, you can check if there are impediments to customs through the tracking number provided when the goods are shipped to the customer.

The track number is an alphanumeric code that can be entered in the ”search for shipments’ ‘section on the National Postal Service website. 

A page will open from which you can get useful information to track your package stuck in customs, and where exactly your package is located.

Customs controls are distinguished in checks for incoming goods and checks for outgoing goods. If you have purchased products from China, you are interested in the incoming checks carried out on all goods imported into Europe and purchased from a third country.

The controls are of two types: the first is carried out on the taxes that the European Union and the home country collect from the import of goods. 

The latter are related to the type of goods imported. With regard to taxes, there are two types of taxes that must be paid once goods are imported from abroad. If the parcel arrives in a European country, the duties will be paid by the EU while the VAT will be paid by the destination country. 

Even for goods purchased from China, the law requires the payment of VAT, even more so if you are a company that deals with the resale of retail goods.

As these are tax controls, they will only concern the documents that will accompany the imported goods, that is, the customs bill; instead, the control that takes place physically on the goods purchased is different if there is a well-founded suspicion of non-compliance with European regulations.

Package stuck in customs: when does it happen?

importing from China made easy

The Customs Agency has specified several times that the physical check on imported goods is possible, not mandatory. 

This means that it does not happen for all packages arriving from abroad to Italy, but only for those products that may not be suitable with respect to European legislation. Let’s look at some reasons together.

A parcel may remain at customs because it allegedly contains prohibited goods or products whose dispatch must be preceded by a specific authorization. Restricted goods

  • Flammable or potentially flammable substances, dangerous products, weapons and explosives without a specific authorisation. Think of the classic fireworks used at the end of the year or the firecrackers used by the boys;
  • Prohibited medicines. Just take a tour of the internet to realize that foreign companies produce chemicals prohibited in our country because they are harmful to health, but also products that can be purchased only by prescription and only after specific analysis. Buying them online on the one hand circumvents European standards, on the other hand you enter a very dangerous market for yourself and for others;
  • Products that can be traced back to protected environments. An example could be archaeological finds of high historical – cultural interest or items whose sale is prohibited to protect nature and animals. The sale of coral, ivory and ointments from the body parts of certain endangered animals is expressly forbidden precisely to discourage poaching. With regard to the purchase of archaeological finds, the purpose of the legislation is to prevent recipe;
  • Unauthorized plants or animals. For example, there are fatty plants whose sale in the EU can take place with prior authorization and the import of the same without a suitable certificate can result in customs detention. Knowing this beforehand even means avoiding any complaints if the police discover the resale of the plants on the national territory;
  • Drugs. The online drug market is constantly growing due to the possibility of circumventing regulations on drug use through different scams. The controls in this regard are increasingly peculiar and focused precisely on online drug trafficking;
  • Food and Drinks. Just to give you an example, exporting Italian wine abroad involves a series of obligations aimed at complying with the regulations of the sector, the same goes for imports. Food is also subject to careful control by virtue of the protection of public health and safety;
  • Last but not least, counterfeit goods.

Over time, counterfeiting has grown to be a big issue that the Customs Agency also combats with the help of the same businesses who experience this kind of unfair competition.

Anyone who is the owner of an industrial property right (i.e. a trademark, a patent, an industrial design, a copyright, etc.) may request the intervention of the authorities whenever there is a well-founded suspicion that counterfeit foreign goods arrive.

A Chinese package may be held at customs if the supporting paperwork is incomplete or erroneous given the contents. 

When you buy a product on the internet, even for personal use, you will notice that along with the package you will find a sheet containing a series of detailed information. In addition to the weight, volume, and number of items in the package, you will find written the type of goods, their characteristics, and the issue of any authorizations for their purchase.

If there is a discrepancy in this information, customs will continue to hold the item until more information describing its contents is provided.

Package stuck in customs: how to avoid it?

package stuck in customs

Everything you have just read can come in handy whenever you decide to buy wholesale Chinese products and then resell them on the national market.

Do not be afraid and do not think that all goods from China are prohibited a priori because it is not so: how many companies buy products from the east that then end up on the market and do not encounter impediments of any kind?

He considers that most of the goods, even technological (appliances, telephony, clothing, shoes, accessories, etc…), are produced entirely by China, chosen for its ability to reduce production costs in favor of a greater profit for foreign entrepreneurs. If everything that is Chinese were forbidden, much of the market would be emptied and many companies operating in the EU would fail instantly.

If you want to prevent the package from being blocked at customs, you must take all possible measures to prevent any type of problem. 

When purchasing products from China, make sure that the company is serious, accredited, and provides all the necessary documentation for the import of the products. It considers that customs duties and VAT fall on those who buy and not on those who sell, for this reason the agreed price must contain the taxes that will be withheld by the European Union and your home country.

On the European Commission website you can find additional information on the charges applied to parcels arriving from outside the European Union. 

These tariffs apply to all products that are commercial in nature, that is, they are purchased not for personal use, not occasionally, and whose shipment is carried out against payment in any form.

Keep in mind the products whose importation is not allowed, and keep up to date with the prohibited goods list, avoid buying food products (including semi-finished products or raw materials) and obtain the necessary authorisations if the goods are subject to approval. Avoid buying counterfeit goods, perhaps by doing some research on the internet of products already patented and offered for sale by other companies. If you follow these little tricks you will avoid most of the problems that could arise from a parcel that has been blocked at customs.

Package stuck in customs: what to do?

If you notice that a parcel has been blocked at customs but you have not been contacted by your National Postal Service  for further clarification, the first thing you could do getting in touch with them. You can do so via telephone, email or online chats with agents. 

Some Postal Services offer to be contacted via social media, leaving a private message on the Facebook page: an operator will tell you the procedure to follow to know what to do if the package is blocked at customs.

In the event that you have received a communication from your National Postal Service, you will likely be requested to send additional documentation, which, generally, consists of:

  • A copy of your identity document, together with your VAT number;
  • A copy of the document of purchase of the goods certifying the payment of the products and the shipment;
  • Statement on the contents of the package.

The procedure should unblock in the short term within a few days, but it could happen that it extends over time, either due to the inertia of the operators involved in sorting, or due to some problems encountered during the check.

In this case, you can chase your national post service again and request further information, or contact a company specializing in import services from China, which will deal with all the processes relating to the purchase of Chinese products.

How to make sure you don’t incur in any problems

If you want to make sure to never have any problems, choose Yakkyofy!

We provide a full range of services, from sourcing to certification control and quality control, as well as shipping, customs clearing, and home delivery.

We can help you with:

  • Locating reputable and accredited providers;
  • Executing complete quality control prior to dispatch;
  • Obtaining professional images, videos, 360° renderings, or augmented reality files for your articles;
  • Sending wholesale orders to Amazon’s headquarters, warehouse, or Amazon Logistics;
  • Producing your Private Label products;
  • Creating unique packaging in order to showcase your business.
  • Furthermore, with Yakkyofy, making items with your brand is a breeze: simply register on the site, browse the catalog, and select the products to which you want to apply your logo.

Decide what you want and wait at home for your goods: Yakkyofy considers product control, agreements, documentation, certifications, shipping, and so on.

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