18 April 2007

It's arrived! (But there's a sting in the Mail...)

Well, Twin Peaks season 2 has arrived, all the way from the good ol' US of A. The packaging has attracted some criticism on the reviews at amazon.com, but it looks OK to me - well, no worse than the first season, anyway:

I haven't actually watched any of it yet as I'll have to refresh my memory by watching the first season again, but it's nice to know that I can at last consign my set of ageing, decomposing VHS videos to the charity shop.

There was a sting in the tail though... customs duty (as the set came in at $43.97 including postage and packing, which, even given the collapsing dollar, is a little above the duty-free import limit of £18. VAT was only £3.92, but the Royal Mail slapped an 'International Clearance Fee' of £8 on the package. I've done some digging around and this is a flat rate fee levied on all packages that are imported from outside the EU above the £18 limit. But get this... it doubled from £4 to £8 on 2nd April!

It's bloody daylight robbery and I have emailed Royal Mail to ask them what the f*** they think they're playing at, and how a 100% increase in a charge like this can ever be justified by the underlying economic costs of doing... whatever it is they say they're doing to justify the charge (processing the mail? I thought we were about 150 years past the point when the receiver had to pay the postage.) As the banks are currently finding out, the Office of Fair Trading likes to hear about businesses that are levying charges out of proportion to any economic rationale.

I'll let you know if I get any explanation out of the Royal Mail and if not, whether the OFT takes this up. In the meantime my advice to people importing Region 1 DVDs to the UK is:

  • try to keep the total cost below £18 (why is this limit never raised? Probably because HMRC likes ripping us off at an increasing rate - a more subtle version of what the guys in the Post Office are doing.) As the pound's now into '$2 and upwards' territory (thanks Dubya), this should become easier and easier.
  • if you can't keep the cost below £18, the 'International Clearance Fee' is a flat £8 (unlike VAT), so you're best to go for the biggest single shipment possible if you can.
  • If you know someone in the States and can get them to send the package to you marked 'gift' then your tax free allowance goes up to £36 [why??]
That's the limits of my knowledge on this subject, but if anyone else has any tips, feel free to get in touch. Now then, time to arrange the long weekend viewing session...

1 comment:

Special Agent Roger Harding said...

I think you'll find that attitude won't help you or Agent Cooper!