Shopping Discussion

Amazon.ca and customs/import/brokerage charges

  • Last Updated:
  • Nov 27th, 2018 12:41 am
[OP]
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Jan 9, 2011
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Amazon.ca and customs/import/brokerage charges

This seems to come up every other day here, and many RFDers don't seem to be aware of this, so I thought I'd post.

Stuff you buy on Amazon.ca that ships from outside Canada to a Canadian address must have all customs/import/brokerage fees included in the price you pay at checkout. Sellers who sell on Amazon.ca are responsible for getting items into Canada and shipping them to you at their own expense, without surprising you with additional customs/taxes/fees/brokerage charges when you receive the item.

These are the Amazon.ca seller guidelines that spell this out for Amazon.ca listings that are shipped to Canadian addresses : https://sellercentral.amazon.ca/gp/help/200404870?
In particular:

  • You are able to deliver to the customer on time, every time with no customer surprises
  • Delivery to the Customer. You must use a reliable shipping method so customers receives their purchases on time, every time. Do not expose customers to customs delays and additional duties and taxes on their purchases. You are responsible for complying with all import and export obligations and for payment of all applicable duties and customs fees. In short, customers must receive exactly what they order without any additional charges or fees and within the estimated delivery date posted with your offer on the Amazon marketplace website.
  • Customer charges. Your listing will include all applicable charges and taxes (including VAT, customs duty, excise taxes, etc. as applicable). You will provide VAT invoices to the customer upon the customer's request, if applicable.

Amazon also has this page for sellers, which states right at the top:

  • If you sell products in Canada, you are responsible for paying any applicable taxes, destination duties, and customs clearance fees before your product can be sold to Canadian residents or stored in an Amazon fulfilment centre.

Many sellers on Amazon.ca are ignoring this and not using the proper customs brokerage services they should be when importing to Canada. Some sellers even include this link in their listings in an attempt to get Canadian buyers to take responsibility for customs charges, but don't be fooled by that. That link is not for items shipped to Canadian addresses, it is for buyers outside of Canada who buy on Amazon.ca, who are responsible for any customs/duties charges levied on them by their country.

If you get surprised by customs/duties charges on delivery of an Amazon.ca purchase, contact the seller with the seller guidelines link I posted above and get them to refund all the charges. If they don't, file a complaint with Amazon.ca.
Last edited by Kiraly on Dec 17th, 2018 2:59 pm, edited 6 times in total.
18% = GTA residents as a proportion of Canada's total population
97% = chance that an RFDer lives in the GTA when he posts something location specific, without giving a location

Were you hit with surprise customs/import fees on an Amazon.ca purchase?
20 replies
Deal Fanatic
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Oct 1, 2011
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Thanks for letting us know.

I did once get an item last year that had duties and taxes applied...but it was still cheaper in total than any Canadian retailer. So I was pretty happy to pay it; it would be a shame if the retailers who are willing to deal with Canadians completely withdraw because they don't want to deal with any customs hassles.

I do believe in working with merchants who have given me a fair deal on a product.

Obviously, if the total price ends up exceeding what you could have simply paid by going to a Canadian store, then have Amazon refund the duties/taxes applied.
Deal Expert
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Aug 18, 2005
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Thanks, I would probably have been fooled by that 'International Shipping' link you provided.
What if there were no hypothetical questions?
Sr. Member
Jul 13, 2007
728 posts
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Toronto
Tough situation.

What can a US sellers do?
Ship via Fedex or UPS and cover the cost of $$$$$ duties. Or ship via USPS, except they can't prepay the brokerage charges, even if they are much less at $8.50...
Are you sure you wish to carry out this operation? You betcha.
[OP]
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Jan 9, 2011
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HammerRFDer wrote:
Jan 8th, 2018 11:42 pm
Tough situation.

What can a US sellers do?
Ship via Fedex or UPS and cover the cost of $$$$$ duties. Or ship via USPS, except they can't prepay the brokerage charges, even if they are much less at $8.50...
Anyone outside of Canada who regularly imports their product into Canada should be contracting with a customs broker to handle all of this for them. That's what serious companies like Apple do. Anything sold at the Apple Canada online store and shipped to a Canadian address is a domestic sale. But most (all?) of the product comes from the US, so Apple contracts with a customs broker to get the stuff into Canada. The cost of this was built in to the price the customer paid at checkout, just like the rest of Apple's costs would have been.

So what can U.S. sellers do? Don't list stuff on Amazon.ca if they don't want to be their own importer. They can stick to selling on Amazon.com and make shipping to Canada available. That way it is clear to Canadian buyers that they will be importing the items themselves and will be responsible for all import charges.

It seems as though foreign sellers want the exposure to the Canadian market than an Amazon.ca seller account brings them, without the obligation to be their own importer and use the brokerage services required. They can't have it both ways.

It basically boils down to this:

  • I buy something on Amazon.com from a U.S. based seller and have it shipped to Canada. I am the importer and am responsible for all import charges.
  • I buy something on Amazon.ca from a U.S. based seller and have it shipped to Canada. The seller is the importer and is responsible for all import charges.
Last edited by Kiraly on Jan 9th, 2018 12:05 am, edited 2 times in total.
18% = GTA residents as a proportion of Canada's total population
97% = chance that an RFDer lives in the GTA when he posts something location specific, without giving a location

Were you hit with surprise customs/import fees on an Amazon.ca purchase?
Deal Addict
Feb 19, 2017
2662 posts
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Vancouver
Thanks, this thread should save a ton of explanations.

Also sellers always have the option of having their orders fulfilled by amazon (and stored at amazon warehouse). No idea how much more this might cost them but anything i buy from amazon.ca always is fulfilled by amazon because otherwise i might as well shop at amazon.com or ebay given both likely has lower prices for the exact same item.
Deal Fanatic
Feb 7, 2017
7411 posts
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Eastern Ontario
Awesome, well written & explained post.

Now if we can just get people to “point to it / link to it” the next time another RFDer asks the never ending question of how Amazon (.com or .ca) works
Deal Guru
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Mar 6, 2003
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can you provide some examples in your post for completeness, people don't seem to understand the differences between:

"Ships from and sold by Amazon.ca. Gift-wrap available. "
"Sold by Etekcity Corp and Fulfilled by Amazon. Gift-wrap available. "
"Ships from and sold by Insane Web Deals | Insane! Toy Shop. "
[OP]
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warpdrive wrote:
Jan 9th, 2018 7:43 am
can you provide some examples in your post for completeness, people don't seem to understand the differences between:

"Ships from and sold by Amazon.ca. Gift-wrap available. "
"Sold by Etekcity Corp and Fulfilled by Amazon. Gift-wrap available. "
"Ships from and sold by Insane Web Deals | Insane! Toy Shop. "
In all three of those situations, buying on Amazon.ca and shipping to a Canadian address means no additional surprise import charges for the buyer.
18% = GTA residents as a proportion of Canada's total population
97% = chance that an RFDer lives in the GTA when he posts something location specific, without giving a location

Were you hit with surprise customs/import fees on an Amazon.ca purchase?
Deal Guru
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Mar 6, 2003
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Ottawa
Kiraly wrote:
Jan 9th, 2018 9:04 am
In all three of those situations, buying on Amazon.ca and shipping to a Canadian address means no additional surprise import charges for the buyer.
I think people are still confused about marketplace sellers vs fulfilled or sold by amazon items. You can see people posting deals confused by it all the time, especially if they are or aren't charged tax and see the item coming by UPS.
[OP]
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Jan 9, 2011
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Like I said, when it comes to the buyer having to pay for duties/taxes/customs/fees upon receipt of an item, there's no difference between buying from a marketplace seller or buying from Amazon. The answer is no in all cases.

A buyer is most at risk of being exposed to this problem when buying from a marketplace seller. If the buyer orders an item from a marketplace seller and gets hit with import fees, it's the seller's fault. The buyer can either pay the fees and get the seller to reimburse him, or refuse the item and ask for a full refund.
18% = GTA residents as a proportion of Canada's total population
97% = chance that an RFDer lives in the GTA when he posts something location specific, without giving a location

Were you hit with surprise customs/import fees on an Amazon.ca purchase?
Sr. Member
Jul 13, 2007
728 posts
247 upvotes
Toronto
Kiraly wrote:
Jan 9th, 2018 12:05 am
Anyone outside of Canada who regularly imports their product into Canada should be contracting with a customs broker to handle all of this for them. That's what serious companies like Apple do.
There are about... 0 companies in the world bigger than Apple (by public market cap).
Is a customs broker contract that easy/inexpensive to set up for a ma and pa shop, or even mid-tier? Serious question.

My experience is that US retailers either offer included customs brokerage at a business-destroying high price or let you take the risk for a very low price. The only standout that included brokerage at a reasonable fee in my experience has been B&H.
Kiraly wrote:
Jan 9th, 2018 12:05 am
So what can U.S. sellers do? Don't list stuff on Amazon.ca if they don't want to be their own importer. They can stick to selling on Amazon.com and make shipping to Canada available.
That's why I said it's a tough situation for sellers. They'll abandon amazon.ca, another blow to e-commerce in Canada. My mom isn't going to check both, she'll just give up.

In other news, the Retail Council of Canada, defender of lazy Canadian retailers, is warning us that increasing duty/tax free limits will finally destroy them: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/duty-fr ... -1.4495167
Are you sure you wish to carry out this operation? You betcha.
[OP]
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HammerRFDer wrote:
Jan 19th, 2018 11:20 pm
Is a customs broker contract that easy/inexpensive to set up for a ma and pa shop, or even mid-tier? Serious question.

My experience is that US retailers either offer included customs brokerage at a business-destroying high price or let you take the risk for a very low price. The only standout that included brokerage at a reasonable fee in my experience has been B&H.
I don't know how big an outlet like cafepress is, but their cafepress.ca site sells domestically to Canadians, while all their product gets shipped up here from the U.S. by way of a customs broker. This coffee mug that sells for C$19.50 sells for US $13.99 at the US site (converts to 17.47 CDN today), so the extra international shipping and brokerage service add $2 to the price. Cheap.

U.S.-based sellers who want to sell on Amazon.ca but try to stiff Canadian consumers with surprise customs and import fees should get off Amazon.ca and stick to Amazon.com with shipping to Canada. That wouldn't be a blow to e-commerce in Canada, that would be a good thing for Canadian consumers.
18% = GTA residents as a proportion of Canada's total population
97% = chance that an RFDer lives in the GTA when he posts something location specific, without giving a location

Were you hit with surprise customs/import fees on an Amazon.ca purchase?
Sr. Member
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Jul 13, 2009
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Thank you very much for this thread!
Cell plans - anything more than $10/gb is a ripoff.
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Dec 25, 2015
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Brighton, ON
The link you provide takes me to a page asking me to sign in (as a seller). I'm not a seller, so can't see the page.

But anyway, doesn't that conflict with the verbage on this page?
The recipient is the importer of record and must comply with all laws and regulations of the destination country. Orders shipped outside of Canada may be subject to import taxes, customs duties and fees levied by the destination country. The recipient of an international shipment may be subject to such import taxes, customs duties and fees, which are levied once a shipment reaches the recipient's country. Additional charges for customs clearance must be borne by the recipient; we have no control over these charges and can't predict what they may be. Customs policies vary widely from country to country; you should contact your local customs office for more information. When customs clearance procedures are required, it can cause delays beyond our original delivery estimates.

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