We’re all familiar with the big couriers. Instantly recognisable by their trucks, vans, planes, and their corporate-clothed drivers – red, yellow, purple, orange, brown uniforms. Successful branding taken to the very max. Such couriers tend to be global; huge organisations with a footprint in every city and every back water of the world due to their integrated transport networks. They tend to provide every shipping option: documents, small parcels, cartons, pallets, and so on. They have also made the world an easier marketplace for eBay sellers – only a few clicks or smart phone swipes generates a sale, collection and a delivery.
However, despite the size of these large power players in the logistics world, can you rely on them to take care of your Customs activities?
At Clearlight Customs, we have inside knowledge of the courier industry. If you care about Customs regulations and how they affect your supply chain, then here are our top five things you need to think about when that driver takes your package:
1. Customs is not their primary business
Fair enough – this is understandable to a point. Their core offer and main focus is transporting goods from A to B. You may have chosen your courier for their price, brand, quality of service or global reach. However, that’s only their “shop window”. Have you considered the various Customs processes and procedures needed to cross borders? In the courier’s approach, customs and brokerage services are secondary, only needed to fulfil the delivery. Despite the fact they dominate a large area of the Customs market (by volume), few couriers make Customs activity a real service offering. It tends to be a back office, low profile feature, which works well until things go wrong. A bit like a phone company – the service is (usually) great for making calls, but not so great when you are trying to contact the company over a billing query. Some have specialised in-house customs teams but engaging with them is almost impossible.
2. Volume, Volume, Volume
The courier industry is a high-volume, highly competitive sector. Did you know that Customs entries are measured, costed and processed using the same model as physical shipments passing through warehouses? However, brokerage systems and trained people are expensive. As non-operating costs, these are added to their pricing, which means courier companies are under constant pressure to economise. Therefore, having an in-depth knowledge of your Customs processes and procedures is not an offer usually covered within their costs.
3. Their processes suit their business, not yours
As the courier industry is under pressure to be competitive, their processes are streamlined to suit the needs of their business. Again, your customs needs won’t form part of their core business model. Courier companies won’t take responsibility should an issue occur, which means you can’t rely on them to resolve your Customs related-problem.
4. They focus on the consignor
A “consignor” is a person or a company (usually the seller) who delivers a “consignment”, e.g. goods, to a carrier for transporting it to the “consignee” (usually the buyer). In this article, we are focusing on the courier as the carrier, but it could include any other party needed to fulfil the delivery. The courier’s main focus is often the consignor who has paid for the goods to be delivered – the receiver (consignee) of the goods is less important. If duties and taxes are payable, then the receiver will need to pay this (unless the consignor has made other arrangements prior to shipment). Therefore, Customs activity mostly affects the consignee – the courier would not get involved in resolving any commercial issues.
5. Compliance errors are unavoidable (they say)
Due to the speed and high volume of deliveries by couriers, the greater the risk of errors. As above, the focus is on the receiver of the goods to sort out any Customs compliance issues, rather than the courier. However, this could be seen as a missed opportunity for the couriers to provide an extra tier of Customs-related services.
Customs and couriers – always know what you’re getting into
To conclude this article, our advice would be to always know what you’re getting into, especially if Customs compliance is important to you or your customers. The most common reasons to choose a courier include delivery performance and global coverage. If you are regularly receiving goods via a courier, we recommend taking into account the true cost to your business (or your customers) if you are footing the bill for non-compliance. If you manage a courier company, perhaps it’s time to invest in an extra service offering, advising your customers on the complex area of Customs compliance?
If your company regularly uses couriers and you’re worried about Customs compliance, please call 01283 553099 to speak to one of our specialists.