U.S. Customs Ecommerce Compliance Guide

Buying Online from a Foreign Seller

As many consumers have already experienced, in just the past 5 years, an increase in foreign sellers have gained access to the United States’ market.  Sellers located outside of the United States may not have all the pertinent information to comply with U.S. Customs compliance and admissibility law.  In many cases, items are so small, they are sent via parcel or courier service. In June of 2018, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection states, “The numbers are staggering. Office of Trade records show that e-commerce resulted in nearly a 50 percent increase in express consignment billings in five years and a 300 percent increase in international mail. In fiscal 2013, the agency processed 150 million international mail shipments. By fiscal 2017, that number was over 500 million shipments.”  Since then, the shipments have only grown.

What if my Shipment isn’t shipped via Courier?

In other cases, the items are larger in size or value.  In those cases, and when buying goods online from a foreign buyer, a consumer should consider the Incoterms® or, what many refer to as the “buying term,” it buys on.  For example, if buying on Alibaba, a consumer should consider the final destination and Incoterm.  For example, if the Incoterm® 2020 is Delivery Duty Paid (DDP), then it is the seller’s responsibility to pay for and arrange the delivery to the buyer’s door.  In addition, on the DDP Incoterm, the seller is responsible for paying for and arranging the U.S. Customs duties and taxes paid to CBP.  Therefore, the shipment could be delayed, detained or destroyed with no transparency direct from CBP or the seller’s assigned U.S. Customs broker or freight forwarder.  On the contrary, if the Incoterm® 2020 is anything else other than DDP, the buyer is NOT responsible for the U.S. Customs duties and taxes paid to CBP, however, the consumer has no control in the process. In this case, the buyer should be specific with the destination and understand it must pay U.S. Customs brokerage fees, duties and taxes.

Find out more about Incoterms® 2020

How to get your Package Cleared and Delivered on Time

For all these reasons, the United States Customs and Border Control (CBP) has created a handy “E-commerce Guide for Online Sellers.”  Whether you are in control of the shipment or the foreign seller is in control, please consider the following elements that can help lead to a compliant and quicker import into the United States of America.  Many of these tips can also be used when exporting products, as well.  For more details, visit CBP Ecommerce Online.

Click on the image obtained from CBP to enlarge.

Ecommerce Guide CBP compliance1. Product Description

Provide a detailed and accurate description of the product(s) being shipped.

2. Value

Provide the selling or list price in U.S. dollars (USD). Even if the product is a sample, value has to be a number.  It cannot be $0.00 USD.

3. Quantity

Indicate the exact number of items in each box, bale, case or other package.

4. Gross Weight

Report the weight (kg or lb) on the same line as VALUE.  If the weight is unavailable, then estimate.  Gross weight is the total weight of each item.

5. Country of Origin

Product(s) must be marked with the English name of the country of origin unless there there is lawful exception.

6. Other Government Agency Requirements 

Other agencies may require additional information.  Ensure you have obtained requires licenses, permits or other information required from government agencies, such as Fish & Wildlife, USDA, FDA, etc.

Do you sell product online store or via a 3rd party Ecommerce site or retailer?

We can help.  

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Scarbrough Warehousing, Inc. receives orders via EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), API (Application Program Interface) or directly from the retailers website.  Scarbrough has extensive experience with but not limited to the following retailers and online store platforms:  Amazon,  Amazon Prime, Costco Wholesale, Hammacher Schlemmer, Wayfair, eBags, Bluestem Brands, Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Shopify, CommercehubWix, Squarespace, BigCommerce, Volusion and more.  From start-up to large fulfillment needs, we work to customize solutions and improve optimization.

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