Belarusians again have problems with the delivery of goods by Russian services shopfans.ru and pochtipochta.ru. Five years ago, customs explained the three-week delivery delay by checking "grey schemes". Now, Minsk citizens have been waiting for the ordered goods for three months, whereas complaints to the State Customs Committee and the Prosecutor's Office have no results. Onliner is trying to find out what is going on and why the system, which has been operating for years, has suddenly failed.
"We've been waiting for a parcel since the end of April".
Intermediary firms from Russia (the most popular are Shopfans and Almostpochta) deliver purchases from China, the USA and Europe to Belarus. Why, when it can be done directly? It's all about the Belarusian limits on foreign parcels - their cost should not exceed 22 euros per parcel. That is, if you ordered a phone to Belarus for €622, you have to pay customs duty of 15% of the amount exceeding the limit (€90). In most cases, it makes an expensive purchase abroad pointless.
However, the limit for parcels in Russia does not look draconian in comparison with the Belarusian one (200 EUR), and when the purchase comes to the intermediary's warehouse in Moscow, it is cleared according to the Russian norms. And there are no duties for shipping parcels from Moscow to Belarus. The firm commissions money for this, but it is still more profitable for Belarusians than paying duties.
At least, this scheme has worked legally for several years. But in recent months, readers have been complaining en masse that their parcels are not handed over by the Belarusian customs, citing the exceeding of the EUR 22 limits.
- We are building a private house and have ordered outdoor CCTV cameras to protect the property from theft while we do not yet live in the house. A suitable option was found in a warehouse in Russia - the price was just under 200 euros. The parcel arrived quickly, but Belarus halted the whole shipment at customs. We hoped that within the prescribed 10-day period all parcels would be checked and returned to the owners, but since the end of April to date, we have not received them, Anna, a citizen of Minsk, is indignant. - I've already suffered losses because of it: a thief broke into our house and broke the expensive double-glazed windows and doors. If the customs had returned our parcels in time, we would have been able to save the property or at least to punish the culprit.
According to the woman, complaints to Customs and the prosecutor's office did not help - the standard replies came.
- Pochtipochta has been operating for six years now, and everything is under the law - there is no customs clearance in the Eurasian Union. I pay the carrier $18 for shipping and order parcels to a Russian address. When they arrive, I fill in a declaration, Russian customs checks the goods and clears them. Does our customs want us to pay extra for anything over 22 euros," the reader wonders. - Is there a legal reason for that?
According to the participants of the closed group Pochtipochta, at least 350 parcels from abroad have been stuck at the Belarusian customs since April. The intermediary could not understand what was going on either and advised Belarusians to contact the local customs and prosecutor's office directly. "But negotiations, complaints, lawyers do no work," people conclude.
There are similar complaints about delayed parcels on forums.
- I ordered a phone worth $200. Pochtipochta asks in my account to write and send them my permission and my request to send the order back from the 433rd consignment first to Russia and then to the seller in China to be able to return the money. I guess our customs require them, not me, to pay customs duty, and they don't want to pay, thinks the reader under the nickname General1111.
The same problems (but of a smaller scale) have users not only of Pochtipochta but also of Shopfans.
- I ordered a phone worth $199 from China to the Moscow address of the intermediary in spring. The parcel went through customs clearance in Russia, the Union State, the Customs Union, without any remarks or customs duty," says Alexei. - In the middle of May, when the intermediary brought the consignment to Minsk, the Belarusian customs office confiscated it. For two months, I kept in touch with our customs, wrote an explanatory note to them and a complaint to the Prosecutor General's Office. As a result, I got the following reply: our customs service wants to charge tax for the goods cleared in Russia and delivered in Belarus. The intermediary refused to pay it, seeing no reason to do so. I was told that they would try to collect the tax from me, but they do not know on what grounds and when.
According to another reader, the customs service first asked him to pay the tax through the intermediary, and then it lost the parcel.
- At the end of April, I ordered electronics from Amazon with delivery by shopfans.ru via Russia. Six days later, the intermediary's car was detained in Minsk, and so far, the shipment has not been handed over. I was summoned as an individual to the operational department of customs for questioning, although the complaint was against the carrier. According to the intermediary, this is not the first time the customs have asked for documents both relevant and not fully relevant to the case. The customs also made a vague request for payment of duties through the intermediary (the carrier), which the latter is not legally entitled to do. At the moment, one parcel has already been lost by customs and they are looking for it," complains Yegor.
One of the replies to the complaint clarified the situation a bit. On 16 July, Operative Customs reported that the parcels were undergoing customs control, which "is not complete at the moment", and added: "Customs declaration of goods for personal use purchased from foreign online shops and delivered by the carrier to your address must be done at the customs authorities of the Republic of Belarus."
Pochtipochta: "We were offered to collect duties from recipients of parcels worth more than 22 euros".
All these three months the service keeps in touch with its customers in the group on VKontakte. However, representatives of Pochtipochta mostly answered that they did not know why the Belarusian customs suddenly detained the parcels. According to them, they did not manage to get any details from the Customs Committee of Belarus right away. Only by June, it became clear that they wanted to declare the consignment unregistered.
- Although the consignment has been released into free circulation in the EEU on the territory of the Russian Federation, we have provided documents confirming customs clearance and payment of duties (if any)," representatives of Pochipochta explain to their customers. - Constructive dialogue failed as in response to the official letter, the customs office offered to collect duties voluntarily from recipients of parcels worth over €22 and pay them, without referring to any legal grounds. We are not allowed to collect duties from customers, as we are not a customs broker. Therefore, we continued our dialogue with customs through official correspondence and explanatory work in person with the office's staff. In addition, we are drafting a pre-trial claim to the Belarusian customs to clarify the cargo status and demand the return of the illegally withheld shipment. We were told (in words so far) that no one is holding the shipment and it will not be confiscated, but simply held until the alleged duties on the exceeded limits are paid. However, the legal mechanism for duties is not mentioned.
Later, there was information that the customs could not solve technical problems with the electronic zip-archive, so a representative of Pochtipochta left to help.
- To be honest, it's not funny anymore," customers write back. - How long can they keep these damn parcels? It feels like it's not just simple stuff, but several million dollars and they don't want to part with it.
What does the Customs Committee say?
By the evening of July 27th, the delivery service has reported that the detained parcel has finally been collected from the customs. It has been promised for delivery within 2-3 days. We could get no further details.
Onliner also asked the State Customs Committee why the consignment had been held for three months and whether it was true that people would have to pay extra for exceeding the limit of €22.
- The customs authorities of the Republic of Belarus carried out customs control of the consignment, which has now been completed and the goods have been returned to the consignee. Further verification measures to recover unpaid customs duties to the budget of the Republic of Belarus, as well as to bring the organizers and participants of the illegal scheme of delivery of goods for personal use to citizens of the Republic of Belarus, are being carried out," the press service responded.