Unless you've been living on Saturn for the past 5 years or so, you'll have noticed that the UK is no longer a member of the European Union (don't blame me, I voted Remain ...) - this has, obviously, let to changes in the way in which things are Done.
The most notable of these is that customs declarations are now required for orders to the EU nations, in much the same way that they are for say, the US or Canada.
So far, so boring ... stick a CN22 on the box and call it good.
If only it were that simple ...
This also means that there are now additional charges that are levied by the EU countries on orders from the UK. Specifically, things like customs duties and tariffs and the dreaded brokerage charges.
Charges which I have absolutely no control over.
I'll say it again: I have absolutely zero control over these charges, and I certainly won't be able to offer any predictions on what the charges might be as they will differ between countries and carriers - needless to say, you need to be mindful that they exist (if it's any consolation, the same thing applies to goods coming the other way - the BBC has a number of articles about people experiencing 'Brexit sticker shock').
These are the things that keep accountants gainfully employed ...
Fortunately(!), the tariffs for the stuff that I sell tend to be pretty low - usually in the 3-5% ballpack - but then you also have to factor in VAT (varies between countries, it's 20% in the UK for example) and, if your order is particularly valuable, customs and import duties (again, threshold seems to vary between countries).
And then there's the brokerage fees too.
Just to make things even more interesting, a lot of couriers have now jumped on the 'Brexit surcharge' bandwagon - for example, DHL have a surcharge of something like 25p/kilo, which doesn't sound to bad until you factor in that the minimum charge is £5 - thanks a bunch, DHL.
I don't have nearly enough volume to negotiate preferential rates with the likes of DHL so I'll now only use couriers if specifically asked to, on the understanding that shipping is likely to cost a lot more. To give an example: shipping a typical shipment (ca. 250g) by DHL to Germany now costs £25 (previously £19), compared with around £10-15 for Royal Mail International Tracked and Signed. Whether or not this premium is worth it for a 2-3 day shipping time is a judgement call.
It's important to emphasise that you, the buyer, are responsible for the payment of these charges (the fancy term for this is 'Delivered At Place') - you are within your rights to refuse to pay any charges owing but then you don't get your stuff.
The practical upshot of it is this:
If an order is returned to me because you are unwilling or unable to pay any customs fees due then you will be refunded once I receive the consignment. However, any charges that are incurred by me, such as duties/brokerage on the returned consignment, will be deducted from your refund amount.
Are there (legal) ways around this?
Honestly, I don't know - I am legally obliged to represent the true value of a consignment on the customs declaration and I will do this without exception. I do know that various freight-forwarding organisations exist, but I'm unfamiliar with how they work and what they charge so they could end up being a more expensive solution.
It's worth noting that the shipping procedures for non-EU orders are pretty much unchanged, although courier shipping is now far more expensive than it was.