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DHL / scam: triple customs dues

1 United States Review updated:

I sent a gift parcel via DHL Express from Mexico to Chile on the 30.10.2010, it arrived a few days later, 03.11.2010 in Santiago, and customs clearance began. I had previously had generally positive experiences in using DHL in Mexico and the USA, so I didn't expect any particular problems, though I'd never used them to ship to Chile before. The parcel had a total value of USD 200, and I included receipts of purchase with the parcel.

I contacted Chilean customs to check the duty payable... it took some patience, but after some misdirection I was able to determine that for the parcel with a total value of USD 200, the total payable should be USD 43... not a small amount, considering that several countries don't bother to levy duty on parcels of a clearly non-commercial nature, but I indicated that I would accept to pay customs charges, and waited for customs clearance and notification of the exact amount to pay.

Days went by, supposedly "Clearance delay" according to the DHL tracking page, until finally on 16.11.2010 I received a demand by telephone from DHL for USD 120! I asked for a breakdown of this demand, and I received an obviously invented breakdown by email. Among other mistakes, DHL didn't quote the percentages used to calculate the positions (that would have been much too convenient I suppose... they must have assumed I didn't do my research), and seem to have taken the rather unusual position that I should pay the "incrementables" for shipping and insurance that go towards calculating the FOB value, so having already paid DHL to ship the parcel to Chile, I should apparently pay for this a second time... nice one...

At this point I was already very suspicious... but not entirely clear on who might be pocketing the difference in the two duty calculations. I suspected Customs, who have a poor reputation, so I contacted them a second time with the specifics of the case. They insist that their total charges come to approximately 29% of the FOB value, which is broadly in line with their original estimate, so I am forced to conclude that the difference is going into someone's pocket at DHL in Santiago. As I said, a nice little scam.

To force the matter (which in my opinion is essentially blackmail, and most probably does not correspond with the actual state of affairs), DHL emailed me on 19.11.2010 to say that the parcel would be transferred to a government warehouse for abandoned shipments.

DHL has not responded to my complaint submitted 1 week ago, or the follow-ups I made since then. I will file a report of theft and extortion with the Chilean police when I am in Chile at Christmas.

I have the feeling someone at DHL thinks they're getting lucky this spring... I strongly suggest anyone shipping items to Chile take precautions.

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  • Ni
      11th of Apr, 2012
    0 Votes

    DHL tried to charge me $50 on for a $19 item for custom's clearance fees. This was weeks after I had received the product. The product was a DVD from a highly reputable company and there was absolutely no cause or reason for it to have been questioned by customs. I called DHL to follow up and question the charge, first thing they asked was if I was calling to make payment. I laughed and told them no, they would not be receiving a penny from me, much less $50 for a $19 dollar item that should have never been held up by customs or given a charge for DHL to pass on to me. I also stated that I would be contacting Customs and Fair Business Practices to which they simply stated, that's fine. It will be a cold day in hell before I use DHL for anything!

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