Who pays for shipping? FedEx, TI and overseas agents

Update: I lost this in my drafts folder for over a year!

I live in Iceland. It’s a nice place to live, but it’s small, so I often have to buy things from overseas, particularly in for hobby electronics gear, but anything small and cheap has this problem.

Now, let’s get this straight, I’m not complaining about customs or VAT. (Not today anyway) VAT here in Iceland is 25.5%, and is applied at the end, on top of shipping charges. Customs rate isn’t always as easy to work out.

Now, in this example, I bought a device from Texas Instruments, for $US4.99, or about 630 ISK. This was advertised as shipping included, worldwide. Add 25.5% VAT, 790 ISK. Not bad. So it arrived yesterday.

Now, what does that even mean? They’ve charged me ~473 ISK for “customs handling” It doesn’t seem to be anything like the VAT rate, or the VAT rate plus the customs rate. (FIXME – finish getting customs rate)

Customs officially don’t collect anything like this, they simply say that agents are allowed to charge for filing paperwork.

So, this seems to be some arbitrary amount they just felt like charging. Next we have 750 ISK for being “an unregistered customer.” Well, that sounds awesome. I didn’t choose this company, I ordered a product from Texas Instruments with shipping included. Who knows if it’s even possible to become a registered customer.

Then there’s VAT on those charges. So, a whole 120% charge (of original purchase) on being the wrong sort of customer and another 75% (of original purchase) for “handling”. I can’t actually see where they charge the VAT/Customs on the product itself, but the end result is that I’ve paid 170% of the original purchase ON TOP of the basic vat rate + the product price. (1345 ISK + 790 ISK)

How is this remotely reasonable for “shipping included” ? And who’s responsible? Texas Instruments clearly believes they paid FedEx, (or presumably FedEx wouldn’t accept the shipment?) I can only assume that FedEx delivers the package to Iceland, believing that they’ve been paid, but I have zero insight into what the deal is between the local agent (Hra├░flutningar ehf)

I believe the party responsible is IceTransport. As they said earlier, local customs agents, defined here, are allowed to charge basically whatever they like. So they do. I presume they treat customers shipping outbound through them quite a lot better, but what are my options at the end of the day? I refuse to pay their arbitrary charges, they hold the parcel, and they’ve already been paid by FedEx/Texas Instruments? So they bin the package, and are already in front? Or do I just suck it up, and pay through the nose? They’re both distasteful.

Customs official answer on handling charges:


  1. Lost for over a year…. $4.99 USD…. is that one of those TI stellaris LM4F120 eval boards? :-)

  2. Indeed :) I think I was probably going to try and get comments from TI/FedEx US/Local partner, but couldn’t be arsed, so just complaining instead…

  3. As someone who frequently buys stuff online from overseas I have to correct you on one thing. The Icelandic customs themselves always charge a customs handling fee. 550 kr├│na flat fee for most personal packages, perhaps (probably) more if you’re shipping big stuff or a lot of volume, I don’t know. But 550 kr. is what you pay for every single package that arrives to Iceland, no matter how small or cheap. I’m frankly surprised to your claims to otherwise, despite claiming you order things often online. Or am I misunderstanding something?

    I’m surprised your handling fee was this low actually, Icetransport claims to have a flat 1200 kr. customs handling fee on their website. But the lesson here is this; never order anything through DHL or FedEx shipping, you will need to deal with local companies here that can and will charge you through the nose for all sorts of handling, storage, service and delivery fees.

  4. Customs does not, charge 550, Posturinn does, and that is an important distinction. Customs collects the Customs and the VSK, but not service charges. I can’t find the custom’s law I was reading at the time, and it may have been part of the reason this blog post stayed in the drafts folder so long, this had been first drafted over a year ago. The problem I’m mainly concerned with here is when I have no choice over how the parcel is getting shipped, it’s just “shipping is included” and then somehow it ends up with either DHL/FedEx/IceTransport, and they charge me at their leisure and discretion, with no recourse.

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