Mediator to review French post office's non-EU 'customs' charges

Douanes say the charge is not added by them and should be called La Poste’s admin fee

Confusion stems from the term frais de douane (customs costs), often used by La Poste

A reader fed-up with so-called ‘customs’ fees levied by La Poste on low-value items sent to him from the UK has taken a case to the official post group mediator.

Ian Morris, a property surveyor from Hérault, said he has twice been charged €9 in frais de douane – once on second hand CDs from a UK website, for which he had paid about £6, and once when a friend returned his own scarf to him.

He said both cases had suitable customs labelling.

Read more: How to fill out French customs form online for packages sent abroad

Confusion over what the fee is for

On chasing up the reason with the Douanes (customs), he was told the fees were levied by La Poste.

It is unclear to The Connexion if these fees were errors but Mr Morris reports that after he complained to La Poste, he was offered compensation of €16.

Part of the confusion stems from the term frais de douane (‘customs costs’), often used by La Poste, which the Douanes service has told The Connexion (and states on its website) it objects to, saying the better term is frais de gestion (‘admin costs’).

It says it is not responsible for these charges.

€31 fee for three pieces of paper

Mr Morris said: “If you add up these small amounts across France, someone is coining a lot. Plus, the paperwork suggested it was fees from the Douanes, which it was not, which seems like fraud.”

He is not satisfied with his €16, considering his time and expenses in contesting, and is pursuing his complaint.

It comes as a member of The Connexion team is seeking clarification after being asked by her post office to pay €31 in frais de douane for an envelope containing three pieces of A4 and being told to query it with the Douanes if she wished.

The Douanes told her to ask La Poste for a refund instead, saying the charge likely arose due to the way La Poste declared the item on collecting it at the border.

Read more: ‘Customs’ charges on gifts due to postal errors, say French Douanes

What are the rules?

The Connexion reported in 2021-22 on similar problems, including fees levied on low-value personal gifts, which should be exempt from import VAT if declared as worth under €45.

La Poste says fees should only be payable if an item had VAT/import duty levied on it.

If so, it adds an €8 service charge for work with customs formalities. It previously admitted errors were possible, but said it had taken steps to minimise this.

With the exception of low-value gifts, items from the UK can, post-Brexit, incur 20% VAT if French tax has not been paid by the seller and included in the price.

Import duties normally only arise on items above €150.

For more on contesting fees see our article.

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