A few weeks ago I bought a Christmas gift over the internet. The company I bought it from is based in Israel. I paid for the goods including shipping charges without a problem.
About 10 days later I received the gift via Federal Express (Fedex). So far so good.
Roughly a week later I received an invoice from Fedex for VAT (you have to pay VAT on goods bought from outside the EU if they’re above a certain value). But the invoice also included a ‘Clearance Administration Charge’.
The charge wasn’t a lot of money but having checked the website of the company I bought the gift from I phoned the FSB legal helpline to check the validity of this admin charge. I found out that, since I’d not agreed to the charge at any point, then I shouldn’t have to pay it.
Based on this I sent an email to the invoice enquiries address at Fedex saying that I hadn’t agreed to the admin charges and, therefore, wouldn’t be paying them (a copy of my email is below).
Well I’ve just had a response from them and they’ve cancelled the charges and cleared my account.
The thing is: I never agreed to the charges up front. In UK contract law, if there is no prior contract/agreement for the charges then I’m not obliged to pay them – and neither are you if you have the same situation.
This makes the admin charge potentially unlawful.
So, if you buy something from outside the EU and the vendor has nothing about admin charges by the shipping company in their T&C’s then you should not have to pay the admin charge.
Sadly I think far too many people would just pay the charges without thinking about whether they should.
My email to fedex if you want to contest the charges.
After having bought a present for my wife from Israel I was surprised to receive an invoice from you for VAT and clearance administration charges.
After having consulted my lawyer about the issue I agreed to pay the VAT, since Israel is not in the EU.
However, I refuse to pay the clearance admin charge since at no point was I made aware of, nor did I agree to, any terms and conditions which clearly stated that I would be liable for any such charges.
At no point in the transaction and subsequent delivery was any contract for a clearance administration charge made between Fedex and myself.
I understand that the supplier (Walletex) state on their website that they are not responsible for custom brokerage fees but I was not made party to the agreement between the supplying company in Israel and Fedex and, thus, entered into no contracts for any explicit charges with Fedex. I paid Walletex for delivery in good faith and no agreement between Fedex and myself exists.
If you want to pursue further charges for delivery or administration or the terms upon which goods are shipped, I suggest that you take it up with the organisation that hired you.
Therefore, I have paid the sum of £9.21 on the invoice (by phone) and hereby request that you cancel the remaining sum of £6.80 on the invoice for the clearance administration charge.
Please let me know when this has been done.
*** OCTOBER 2019 UPDATE ***
OK, due to Brexit this may change and I’ll make the effort to update the legal status on this (If I can find a definitive answer).
Just as a note though; I’m not a lawyer, just a businessman. So, please don’t ask for legal advice because I’ll always point you in the direction of a lawyer. Many home insurances come with a legal helpline, so check your policy.
What I do strongly suggest is that you keep records of all your correspondence with FedEx if you’re disputing a charge. They seem to be ignoring emails and letting calls go unanswered but make sure you can show that you’ve made the effort in case they send the debt to a collection agency.
*** APRIL 2020 UPDATE ***
FedEx have been putting up some resistance to this in recent months, even threatening to send the outstanding bill to a collection agency.
However, you do have some legal options. So have a read of this which was contributed by someone below:
So FedEx caved in after my second email.
I think the email you have on your blog is still the best starting point. It clearly stated the fact in a polite manner. If it doesn’t work, please aware that under the Unsolicited Goods and Services Act 1971 (updated in 2000), it is a criminal offence of a company to send unordered goods or services in the hope that the recipient will pay due to ignorance. The section 2 of this act specific outlaws the company bringing legal proceedings, invoke any collection procedure in attempts to collect the payment.
Also, the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013, Regulation 39 and 40 outlined that the company has to get consent from consumer prior and additional charges has to expressly agree in advance, for example, it cannot be something automatically bill you additional fee unless you unclick/opt out.
One important thing is you need to make sure no one (not your seller, shipper) communicate this advancement fee to you and you don’t accidentally agree to it. Please consult a legal professional, but the law seems to be on our side if FedEx ever wants to go to court for £12.
I don’t think it will ever get to this stage, but anyone who get harassed by collection agencies over fees they are clearly not liable to. Section 2 of the Fraud Act 2006 and section 21 the Theft Act 1968 cover area where companies made up false representation as well as send threats to collect money that you are not legally liable to. Very few sane companies want to go there because these two laws could lead to jail time. If you find yourself in this area, please do get a lawyer.