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Royal Mail £8 Internal Post Handling Fee scam?

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This is very loosely paraphrased from my phonecall this morning to royal mail complains after I got done for a £8 "royal mail international handling fee". That, on top of, paying £4.97 duty/VAT on an order for £33. So a total of £13 with the added bonus of the parcel delivery being delayed and me having to pick it up myself (they do have other ways to pay and have it re-delivered but that would add even longer time to the delivery). If I hadn't paid the parcel would be returned to sender and they make it clear that if they get a return because the receiver declined to pay customs they will not refund.

I called their complaints department and was met by a very unsympathetic representative. He denied that holding the parcel was against any laws, and gave me a rubbish story about how they cannot trust in the goodness of people to pay if they deliver the parcel. I told him something to the effect that this was not a good reason to hold the parcel and both legaly and morally questionable as most companies do deliver goods and then charge the customer, and there are plenty of legal options to deal with non-paying "customers". He didn't really care and said royal mail was well within their rights to withold the parcel. Surely they are not as they are only a carrier, not a provider of goods and one that I didn't even choose to use at that!

I also argued that £8 was too much and mentioned that only recently it had been £4. He responded by saying that the £8 gave them zero profit and was purely to cover the cost of collecting the duty. He claimed royal mail was losing money when they were charging £4. I stated that this was hard to believe and if true then there is something very wrong with the procedure used to collect the duty as it must be possible to do it cheaper. Keep in mind I've already paid for the shipping when I made the order so the £8 does not include shipping.

He then said that revenue and customs had agreed this duty collection service from royal mail and I should complain to them if I don't like it. I then asked if this means that there are other ways to pay the duty fee without using royal mail and he confirmed no, there is not. When I then stated that this is a monopoly forcing me to pay the £8 handling fee on any international order, he retorted by saying that it was not a monopoly as customs had decided to use this service.

Well since I have no choice in paying customs and I have no choice to not use royal mail to do so, it IS a monopoly. When I told him so his response was to complain to the government.


There are others complaining about this as well, even one who claims they are breaking the law by breaking Section 104 and 105 of the Postal Services Act 2000. Link to that here: http://paulm.com/inchoate/2005/04/customs_royal_mail_clearance_scam.html

Anyone want to comment on what they think, or what they would do? If we don't make it clear that we won't let them rip us off like this then I'm sure they'll just keep raising the "handling" costs.
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Comments

  • mpython
    mpython Posts: 3,677 Forumite
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    Hi Tarostar, welcome to MSE, hope you enjoy it here and can find ways to save money.

    Whilst I can understand your annoyance, this issue has been raised in other threads on this and other boards (e.g. ebay). Whilst not popular, it is legal. At the moment, the item doesn't belong to you, RM have a contract with the sender, not the receiver concerning delivery (so will return it) and an obligation to obtain customs duty or show duty &/or tax has already been paid. I'm afraid you're in the same situation as others. Not much consolation I know but at least you'll be aware for next time.
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  • olly300
    olly300 Posts: 14,736 Forumite
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    It seems unfair but that the way it is which is why you are advised not to buy goods from outside the EU.

    Any courier service you use that collects parcels from aboard where duty has to paid collect the money on behalf of HMRC. None of them will let you have the parcel first and they charge you a lot more than RM for this "service" no matter the value of the goods.
    I'm not cynical I'm realistic :p

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  • Tarostar
    Tarostar Posts: 13 Forumite
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    It does seem very unfair as you have no say in the matter and am not even made aware of the rather steep "handling" charge until the goods have already been sent and it is therefore usually too late to change your mind without penalties from the seller.

    I was aware of the customs duty charge and although I don't agree with it, was expecting it. The "handling" fee is however twice the customs duty and not something you can easily discover beforehand or have any say about. At least customs are working for the government which we are suppose to have elected. RM are private (more or less) and are in this instance forcing you to pay wathever fee they determine. I'm sure they are regulated, but surely £8 is a bit much for simply collecting duty on the parcel. You even have to bring exact cash when you pick it up.
  • custardy
    custardy Posts: 38,365 Forumite
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    ask them to return it to customs and inform customs you will deal directly with customs?
    of course you would most likely have to pay carrige from HMC

    ive offered this solution many times but as of yet no one has bothered to try.

    remember you are dealing at a local level.if you originally dealt with customs you would need ot be informed in writing you have a parcel @ mount pleasant with £x to pay.
    then pay it
    then await its delivery.
    you seem bothered by delays as well
  • nodge
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    I've just had a very similar experience - ordered a DVD from USA, paid $41/£20-odd for it. Yesterday I had a notice thorugh the door that there's a VAT charge £3 then plus another £8 for this Royal Mail Handling Charge. Had to pay to get the packet, and rang RM to find out how it is calculated. The woman was very polite and said that it's a flat fee whether you spend £4 or £400 (except £4 wouldn't attract VAT or duty anyway but never mind I get the point), to cover the cost of the packet going to Customs and then back again, plus an admin charge factored in as well. What I don't get is how it can be justified at that amount, especially as the sticker on the packet is marked 'HM Revenue & Customs, Mount Pleasant Postal Depot' so it probably hasn't actually moved at all - more like they are shunted into a corner at Mt Pleasant when they arrive and someone form HRR&C pops in every day or whatever. Well maybe it is a bit more involved than that, but I'm just annoyed that only £2 over the £18 threshold brings in a whopping £8 extra on top of the VAT (which I don't have a problem with).
  • userdefinable
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    I have just encountered the same problem, I'm fuming. I ordered $36.58 of goods, just over £18. Of course my luck is that you pay nothing under £18 but a few pence over and you pay the VAT (so £3.28) and Royal Mails £8 handling fee!!

    So I have paid an additional £11.28 on goods that only cost around £18.30

    That's insane, I'm furious but fear there's nothing I can do about it :(
  • custardy
    custardy Posts: 38,365 Forumite
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    refuse the goods
    fact is its over the customs limit for goods.
    as i have said many many times now.
    customs allow your fee's to be paid by the company(be it royal mail or any other company) and pass any fee's on.
    yet everyone so far never quesions HMRC and seems happy for them to abdicate the responsibility on the collection of duty
  • superscaper
    superscaper Posts: 13,369 Forumite
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    I have just encountered the same problem, I'm fuming. I ordered $36.58 of goods, just over £18. Of course my luck is that you pay nothing under £18 but a few pence over and you pay the VAT (so £3.28) and Royal Mails £8 handling fee!!

    So I have paid an additional £11.28 on goods that only cost around £18.30

    That's insane, I'm furious but fear there's nothing I can do about it :(

    The handling fee probably covers the import duty (which is in addition to the VAT). If you don't think there should have been any import duty then you need to contact HMRC.
    "She is quite the oddball. Did you notice how she didn't even get excited when she saw this original ZX-81?"
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  • userdefinable
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    I was told that the £8 handling fee is a set fee no matter the price of the item (as long as it's over £18 obviously) :(
  • custardy
    custardy Posts: 38,365 Forumite
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    yup it is a set fee(was £4 until fairly recently)
    some are cheaper and some mmore expensive
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