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Things to remember when buying online

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Black Friday and Cyber Monday spread to South Africa and parts of Africa about three years ago and have quickly become a local tradition with retailers and consumers taking full advantage of this promotional sales event.
The promotional sales hype this weekend is the perfect spring board for the festive season deals which follow it. It spells the start of the peak season for retailers and in theory, every consumer’s dream – special discounts, free gifts and free delivery.
Hennie Heymans, CEO of DHL Express Sub-Saharan Africa, points out that consumers need to understand international shipping processes in order to maximise their savings during this period. With express logistics providers forming a pivotal part of the value chain, this is also the peak period for the express logistics industry, where a huge spike in volumes is seen.
Coupled with the huge spike in volumes, there is often also an increase in customer enquiries when goods bought online from an overseas or cross border retailers are held up as import duties and VAT had not been considered. This can cause major frustration for customers and sometimes, the ‘great deal’ turns out to be a lot more costly than originally anticipated.
In light of this, Heymans offers his top tips for being online shopping savvy:

Gifts are not automatically exempted from duties and taxes
When purchasing a product online and sending it as a gift, check on the receiving country’s regulations to avoid the recipient being held liable for additional charges. For example, Customs Bureaus in Angola have legislated tax-free exemptions for gifts to an individual as long as the value is less than $350. In Zimbabwe, the limit is $10, in Kenya the limit is $20 and in Mozambique, a mere $8. This shows the varying limits for exemptions and demonstrates the importance of checking local regulations prior to making your online purchases.

Don’t be caught off-guard by Customs’ import duties and taxes
Consumers need to be aware that they may have to pay customs duties for their online purchases. All shipments transported across international borders must be cleared through Customs, where, depending on the type of goods being shipped, they may also be subject to additional charges. Import duties and taxes differ in each country and are usually calculated as a percentage of the item value. Import shipments may also be subject to interventions by Customs where the price, contents and country of manufacture are often investigated to mitigate a wide range of risks.
This could result in delivery delays as well as additional costs.
Some e-retailers offer Delivered Duty Paid (DDP) terms which clearly communicates that all costs, inclusive of delivery, duties, taxes and clearance costs, are payable at checkout, to avoid any surprise costs at destination. However, the majority of e-tailers who offer delivery across borders only include the delivery cost. All additional costs specific to the import country are for the consumers to take on separately.

Be conscious of regulations/restrictions on certain products
Some products are prohibited or have certain limitations when imported. These could be aviation restrictions – for example – flammable liquids are categorised as dangerous goods, therefore importing of perfume, which contains alcohol, would be restricted. There may also be country specific restrictions – for example – on certain food or animal by-products.

Use reputable e-retailer websites with transparent delivery options
Be sure to only make online purchases from websites that are well-known and reputable. For peace of mind, it is advisable to select a premium courier delivery option, where the delivery process can be tracked from dispatch to final delivery.
“The pros far outweigh the cons of online shopping – there is no doubt about that,” says Heymans. “But knowledge is power, and if consumers take the time to do some research before shopping online from international sites – whether that be by checking regulations online or calling us for advice – it will put them in a better position to boost their savings.”