Importing Discs & Customs Charges - a campaign


Distinguished Member
I've posted this in several areas.

I'm asking anyone who imports using to read the following.

MODS, please help in any way you can. I know I've posted this in more than one area, but it'd be nice if you could leave it up there just for a week or so. Sticky for a week?

In the words of Popeye, I've takens enough, I can't takes no more!

Customs are charging us for importing goods from Amazon when they are under the £18 mark.

They do this if goods are bought in a sale and cost less than £18 because Amazon list the full price on the parcel.

This results in us paying import charges then having to pay them back. See:

Well, are we going to sit round meekly and accept this? We've tried writing to the Post Office, to Customs and to Amazon, and whilst we sometimes get a refund (after many weeks and a long drawn out process), nothing changes, and the next parcel you receive is liklely to have the same problem.

So I've decided to do something about it.

Watchdog is back on. So I've e-mailed them.

This is what I said:

Dear Watchdog,

I have a problem which also affects hundreds if not thousands of other people, but which no-one appears to be able to sort out.

It is not a big, earthshaking issue, but I’m sure you could clear it up and make a lot of us happy with a 2 minute slot on your excellent show.

I am a fan of films, and import many DVDs from Amazon in the USA, as the prices are very reasonable there, and you can often find films there not available in the UK.

Recently have been promoting the two new high definition formats (HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc) with BUY ONE GET ONE FREE sales.

When importing from the USA customs charge if the item is over £18.

The great news is that many of the BUY ONE GET ONE FREE sale items at Amazon are $19.99 each, and hence $19.99 (or £10) in total in the sale. No customs or V.A.T. due.

Unfortunately, Amazon print the full value of the goods on the outside of the parcel, not the sale price.

So, if you buy two discs for $19.99 each in a BUY ONE GET ONE FREE sale, the parcel lists the value of the goods as $39.98, which translates as being around £20, and due for customs charges at 3.5% and VAT at 17.5%.

To add insult to injury, the Post Office will not deliver the goods to you direct. They put a card through your door asking for you to pick up the parcel from your post office, then charge you an extra £8 or so for handling the transaction. If you don’t hand over the money you don’t get the parcel.

More annoying still is that the Post Office, Customs and Amazon all know this is wrong.

If you fill in a form and send it to customs, they will reimburse the charges. When you get this money back from customs you can send a copy of the letter to the Post Office and get your £8 back.

What a kerfuffle!

Surely, someone is doing something wrong here.

Are Amazon making an incorrect statement on the outside of their parcels?

If not, then surely it’s wrong for customs to charge you on the basis on the basis of what it says on the parcel – they should open it up and charge you what it says on the receipt/invoice inside.

Whatever, this appears to be a classic example of the little man in the middle being in the right, and the big man (Amazon, the Post Office, HM Customs) knowing about the problem but not being prepared to do anything about it.

Can you help?

Now knowing these forums I'll likely get a good deal of replies saying "It won't do any good".

Well maybe not, but at leaat I'm going to try.

It took 10 minutes to compose that.

Watchdog are more likely to act if they get multiple complaints.

So please contact Watchdog with your concerns at:

[email protected]

We might not make a difference. But at least we'll have tried.

And it'll only takeyou 2 minutes to e-mail them.

Many thanks.

Steve W


Distinguished Member
What we should be doing is trying to have that absurd, completely outdated £18 customs limit increased to something more sensible. (I would say £30-£50)

I remember reading about the guidelines on why it exists and it stated that the customs penalty is not in place or was initially designed to punish the individual customer from buying one to two small items abroad. Which is why they decided on having the £18 limit before penalties are charged.

But is there to punish large companies from buying all their stock from outside the EU.

The thing is that while the value of the pound has diminished that £18 limit has stuck there.

Even the charges they give you have increased with the diminishing pound. But their limit has not. (If that is not the definition of double standards I don't know what is!).

We should be writing to Watchdog or other consumer agencies, or even our Labour/Conservite MP's about this. And I would definitely support that goal.

It's worth mentioning that the RRP cost of a DVD is still, I believe, £19.99 in the UK. Alright nobody in their right mind pays this. But its still there.

And the RRP of a PS2 game is £34.99. A PS3 Game is £49.99 and RRP of a Xbox360 Games are £39.99.

Everyone of these RRP's is over the £18 customs limit meaning the initial goal of having a limit in place designed not to punish individual customers making one purchase has become completely worthless and outdated.


Prominent Member
Amazon are at fault for putting the wrong information on the package.
I can't really find it in myself to blame customs (although I would really like to)


Established Member
I have yet to be charged by Customs, and in the last year I must have imported 50 or more discs at least, including HD-DVD of Heroes

Really glad I never buy through Amazon

Really hope the campaign goes well and Watchdog do something


Established Member
We have the same problem here in Norway. Our customs limit is 200 NOK (that's about the same as your £18). This limit have been unchanged for 30 years!!!!

I mailed about this matter here the other day, on how they list full price on the parcel (when it's not) and how that can be a problem for us as customer.

This is the answer I got back:

Thanks for writing to us at

As noted in our Help pages
any customs or import duties are levied once the
package reaches the destination country. Additional charges for
customs clearance must be paid by the recipient; we have no control
over these charges and cannot predict what they might be. Customs
policies vary widely from country to country. You may want to
contact your local customs office for further information.

Generally, customs forms for international packages will list the
value of your order's contents by product type.

If you used any promotional discounts on an order, please be aware
that while the promotion reduces the actual amount that you pay, it does not change the value of the item itself. We are
required to declare the actual value of the items in your shipment.

Please note that though the dvds is free under the buy one get one
free promotions we will still need to declare the value of
promotional items to custom authorities.

Your privacy is important to us, and we know that you care about how
information about your order is used and shared. We would like our
international customers and customers shipping products outside the
U.S. to be aware that cross-border shipments are subject to opening
and inspection by customs authorities.

Also, we may provide certain order, shipment, and product
information, such as titles, to our international carriers, and such
information may be communicated by the carriers to customs
authorities in order to facilitate customs clearance and comply with
local laws.

If the order is a gift, the cost of the items is still stated on the
customs form. Customs authorities require us to state the value of
gift items directly on the package.

Thank you for shopping at


Prominent Member
I had this with a 3 for offer from amazon list the value of the items for insurance reasons without indicating the actual price paid for the order. Customs (and Royal Mail) then charge their fees accordingly. You can then contact Customs, explain the circumstances and produce corroborating evidence and they will refund the Customs fee. You then send a copy of the Customs letter to Royal Mail and they will refund their "handling" charge.

Job done.

Pain in the ar$e for sure but you can get your money back.


Established Member
In essence it shouldnt be necessary (to go through the palava of re-claiming your money to RM/Customs) however I can see the point about insurance too, its no good to Amazon if they put on a BOGOF parcel its value is £15 lets say (as one item is free) , the parcel then gets lost and they look fraudulent for trying to claim back the "free item" which to them still has a value

No-one is right, and no-one is wrong I guess

The only place I have ordered bogof items from is zavii anyway (which I believe are mainland to start with) so I cant comment, although I am very lucky that I have placed many multi orders from overseas and they have all come in seperate packages and therefore for the most part escaped tax (although it doesnt explain Heroes S1.....)


Prominent Member
Steve - I can think of three others you should write to which might help get this situation resolved.

1) Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos - this could implement the change most quickly but, on the flipside, Amazon do seem to encourage you to buy in country so it's a risk.

2) Post Office CEO David Mills - it can't be in their interest to have this system in place what with the extra administrative burden it places. They might join the cause and pressure Amazon to make the label change.

3) Martin Lewis "Consumer Champion" - he loves this sort of battle.

Good luck.


Distinguished Member
Good on you, Steve. It's a poor state of affairs.

I recently negated customs charges by gift wrapping them and sending them to my unborn child at my work address :thumbsup:


Distinguished Member
Has anyone tried this?

Tick the 'gift' box, then you havean option to gift wrap or not.

But even if you decide not to, there's a box at the bottom (ticked automatically) saying:

If you decide not to wrap your gifts, you can still hide the prices on packing slips for items from Just leave this box checked. Note that not all merchants are able to suppress prices in this way, so items not from might ship with price information printed even if you leave this box checked.

What will customs do then?

Do they guess the value of the items?

Steve W


Distinguished Member
I ordered some Blu-Rays (BOGOF) and the Blade Runner HD-DVD briefcase, both separate orders. In both cases they were directly from Amazon USA. I ticked the gift wrap option, put a happy christmas/birthday message on them. Sent them to my work address rather than my home address, and as an additional level of realism, sent them to my unborn child.

On both boxes, Amazon had put the items as gifts and they passed through customs with no charges being applied.


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