Thursday, 4 Mar 2021

EU customers warned British retailers will ‘burn’ parcels to avoid ‘costly’ return fees

UK retailers may ‘burn’ goods to avoid return fees says reporter

Radio presenter Caroline Nichols told the BBC Today programme on Thursday morning that extra fees on returning goods for European Union customers may lead to British retailers taking drastic action to avoid the hefty payments involved. Ms Nichols warned customers in the EU that their orders may even end up being burnt rather than shipped back as this would prove cheaper for British businesses navigating new EU customs demands after Brexit.

The new EU trade deal has been blamed for putting costly fees on returns at a time when British firms are already struggling.

The BBC Today newsreader said: “UK retailers could abandon goods EU customers want to return with some even thinking of burning them because it is cheaper than bringing them home

“They say the new EU trade deal has put costly duties on returns at a time when firms are already struggling.”

UK High Street and luxury brands are increasingly finding their goods stranded in transit as they are transported to the European market.

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Adam Mansell, boss of the UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT), told the BBC it is “cheaper for retailers to write off the cost of the goods than dealing with it all, either abandoning or potentially burning them.”

“It’s part of the ongoing small print of the deal.

“If you’re in Germany and buying goods from the UK, you as the German customer are the importer bringing goods into the EU.

“You then have a courier company knocking on the door giving you a customs clearance invoice that you need to pay to receive your goods.”

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Faced with the additional costs,  many customers have refused to pay and simply leave the item with the courier rather than collect it. 

This has resulted in a wave of returns heading back to Britain with about 30% of items sold online being returned, according to figures from Statista. 

When goods arrive back at depots on the Continent, there is new customs paperwork to complete.

Mr Mansell continued: “Export clearance charge, import charge arrival, import VAT charge and depending on the goods’ rules of origin document as well,” 

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“Lots of large businesses don’t have a handle on it, never mind smaller ones.”

A document obtained by the BBC lists four leading UK High Street fashion outlets are sitting on a mountain of returns in Ireland, Belgium and Germany with one brand facing a bill of almost £20,000 to get the products back. 

In a statement, the government has said: “Now the UK has left the EU customs union and Single Market, there are new rules and processes businesses will need to follow.

“We have encouraged companies new to dealing with customs declarations to appoint a specialist to deal with import and export declarations on their behalf – and we made more than £80m available to expand the capacity of the customs agents market.”

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