Customs fees issues with my phone

Sunday, December 16, 2018

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Dear Claudienne

In September 2018, my friend who lives in Canada, bought a Samsung A8 mobile phone as a gift for me and sent it out from a UPS store in Canada via DHL Express.

A DHL representative informed me that the shipment had reached and that Jamaica Customs fees would be 55 per cent of the C$600 cost of the phone.

He said I would have to pay a total of $44,000 — ie $38,000 customs fees plus the $5,000 DHL courier charge.

As I am not working, I am not in a position to pay that and my friend will not be able to send me the money to pay the custom fees.

Out of the kindness of my friend's heart, he said he would send this gift to me seeing that I couldn't afford to buy a phone,

He has been in dialogue with UPS and wants the phone to be returned to Canada. However, customs has said that they will not send the phone back to Canada.

Furthermore, I am told that if I don't pay for it after a certain amount of time, customs will sell the phone at auction.

This is ridiculous.

My friend says he would never come back and live here.

I am still hoping that I can retrieve my phone from customs and not have to pay that exorbitant price. I really do need my phone because the one I have is giving me problems. That's why he decided to send one for me.

I would appreciate your help in this matter.


Dear DP

The Senior Gateway Supervisor at DHL explained to Tell Claudienne how the company processes a shipment on arrival. He said that he tried to make contact with you and left a message on your phone.

He stated the following:

“...a telephone call is made to the consignee offering to conduct clearance on the customer's behalf.

A request is made for the consignee's TRN as this is required to be entered into ASYCUDA (customs automated system used to do independent assessment).

An assessment will be done in ASYCUDA based on the CIF value of the shipment (therefore the invoice value and the freight amount is combined to receive the total charges payable to Jamaica customs).

The assessed charges as calculated by the system is then presented to the customer along with our internal brokerage fee for payment to be made prior to the shipment being released to the customer.

On payment of the charges, the item is then presented to customs for verification and if there is any perceived discrepancy with the invoice, customs will request a proof of payment to ensure that the value is deemed to be what was paid

After verification, the shipment would then be released to us and we (DHL) would then deliver the item to the individual.

On the matter of return to sender;

The consignee would have to send a written request to the collector of customs for the return of the item.

This request would then be accepted or rejected by customs based on the reason given for the request to return to sender.

As soon as the request is actioned, (if it is approved) the letter would then be sent to DHL by the consignee and we would proceed to make the necessary arrangements to have it returned to the sender.

I sincerely hope that the above explains what transpired and how the process works, please note that the automated system introduced by customs was put in place so brokers and freight forwarders would be able to do an assessment of charges without having to do a physical inspection as that was during the old manual process.

Please also note that I tried to make contact with the consignee but was unsuccessful, so I left a voice message and my contact details.”

Tell Claudienne asked the senior director at the Kingston Operations of the Jamaica Customs Agency for a clarification on customs fees and she responded to questions from Tell Claudienne as follows:

“Please be advised that the Jamaica Customs Agency is unable to respond to any query pertaining to any specific importer. We will however respond to the five questions raised.

(1) Since the phone in question was a gift could you please clarify if the Customs Act has any classification for gifts.

Response: The Customs Act does not define gift; however it speaks to goods. According to Section 2 of the Customs Act, goods include “all kinds of goods, wares, merchandise and livestock”.

(2) The phone was a gift but you state that Ms Philp is an importer. Please clarify who is defined as an importer under the Customs Act.

Response: All bills of lading or airway bills contain a consignee which is the named individual to whom the shipment will be delivered at the port of importation. The Customs Act, however, does not speak to a consignee but an importer which is interpreted as one and the same. According to Section 2 of the Customs Act, an importer includes the owner or any person for the time being possessed of or beneficially interested in any goods at and from the time of importation until they are delivered out of the charge of the officers

(3) Please state the section of the Customs Act that states that items (gifts) coming to the island cannot be returned to the country from which they were imported.

Response: Given the response at 2 above the 'gift' as it is termed is a 'good' and is subject to Customs control.

(1) There is a named importer of the item and the laws of importation became applicable once the item was offloaded and placed in the warehouse

(2) The item was intended for domestic consumption since it was termed a gift for the importer and it was not manifested as an item to be transshipped outside of the country. Permission for re- exportation would not be granted in this matter.

(3) 14 days after the unloading of goods they are deemed overtime goods and are liable to be deposited in the Queen's Warehouse.

(a) Items of a perishable nature, for example, fruits and vegetables are sold immediately.

(b) Items that cannot be warehoused, for example, cement and asphalt are sold after 14 days of being advertised.

(c) Other goods which can be deposited in the Queen's Warehouse, for example, appliances, motor vehicles, cellular phones remain at the Queens Warehouse for three months, then advertised for one month and then sold.

The importer of goods deposited in a Queen's Warehouse can pay for and take possession of the goods up to the day before the auction, whether it is a Private Treaty, Motor Vehicle or a General Merchandise Auction.

Sections 87 to 88 of the Customs Act is the Authority on this issue

The Customs Regulations 109 makes provision for goods supplied contrary to order to be returned to the supplier, once the application is made within three months and the goods have not been used in the country.

For example, an incorrect part or equipment received, contrary to what was ordered. The item would have had a serial number, an examination would have been done by customs where applicable and the Suppliers Invoice would reference the serial number.

The importer would have to submit a letter to the Collector of Customs within the specified time setting out the circumstances and attaching thereto all pertinent documents for consideration to be given.

(4) Are all gifts including charitable gifts sent to Jamaicans imports that are taxable? Are there exceptions under the Customs Act?

Response : The Charities Act provides concessions for charitable goods. Only registered charitable organisations who import goods for the public benefit are entitled to concessions under this Act.

The Charities Act is available online.

(5) If there are gifts that are not taxable under the Customs Act could you kindly list them.

Response: (1) Passengers 18 years and older are entitled to the US$500 allowance on personal and household items

(2) Goods of a value not exceeding United States US$50 do not attract duties.”

Tell Claudienne notes that you live in St Mary and as yet have not been to the DHL office at the Norman Manley airport, or spoken to a customs official at the airport about the customs fees DHL has said you will have to pay.

Please go to the airport and speak with customs and try to see how best the issues with the phone can be resolved.

We wish you all the best.

Have a problem with a store, utility, a company? Telephone 876-936-9436 or write to: Tell Claudienne c/o Sunday Finance, Jamaica Observer, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5; or Please include a contact phone number.

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