There was here recently discussion about customs charges. Here's the link:
I just wanted to give an update on my own experience and some pointers for possible measures you can take, if you so choose.
The company that I felt scammed by is Piping Rock. I think it's okay to name this company because I didn't order any prescription drugs, just a supplement. First off, I thought it was based in the UK, because there was a union flag and the prices were in Sterling and there was no obvious indication on the website that the company is US -based, not even in the About Us section, which I had read. That's the first thing - don't take if for granted that because there's a union flag and sterling prices that it's based in the UK.
The next thing, imports are obviousy liable for customs, but there are exemptions, one being if the value of the purchase is less than £15. Fortunately, mine was under that amount, yet I still received a card from Royal Mail that my parcel was being held until I paid a customs fee and mail handling charge, which worked out to be the same price of the items I purchased. It wasn't worth it for me to pay the extra charge, so I didn't collect the parcel. Instead I emailed the company, which firstly ignored me, then begrudgingly refunded about half of my money but retained the rest as a 'restocking fee'. I asked if they had declared the correct value of the purchase on the customs declaration form and I was told, yes, that the blame lay with customs. Figuring that a company that is deceptive about its location might just possibly have no scruples about other things, like, inflating charges, I decided to go the sorting office to view the parcel. Lo and behold, inflated costs. I took photos,, sent these to the company and got the rest of my refund.
So, a few suggestions:
1. Have a healthy sceptism about what companies might tell you. It's really profit above all else, including honesty, for most companies.
2. It is not illegal for a company to inflate the value of purchases and they may do so for insurance companies - this came from Border Force UK in response to a query I sent. It's up to you then, whether you decide to take it up with the company.
3. If you decide to pay the fee you can claim back from customs, but probably not Royal Mail. If you send photographic evidence of the inflated costs to the company, they might be more likely to refund what you have lost.
4. Even if you decide it's not worth it to collect the parcel, you can view it, take photos and then give it back to Royal Mail, then send the photos to the company. You stand a much better chance of getting a refund on the original purchase if you provide photographic evidence to disprove the company's claims.
5. If you paid by Paypal, you can report it, as I did. They can't open a dispute over a customs issue, but they can look into a company's practices. I provided Paypal with a link to reviews which indicated the volume of complaints about Piping Rock's practices. Paypal said they would investigate and, depending on their findings, could potentially impose trading limitations on Piping Rock.
6. Paypal suggested reporting the company to trading standards in the US and UK. Because Customs Force have said that the practice of inflating the value of goods is not illegal, I don't know how beneficial this would be, unless perhaps the company has to warn buyers in advance that it does this. I did send a query to a US trading standards body, but I'm not sure if it was the right one, so I don't know if there'll be any response. I haven't yet been able to find the right UK body to send a query to.
Hopefully this will be of some help to others who fall foul in the same way I did. The expense of going to the post office, not to mention the time and all the emails far outweighted the value of my refund. But it's not about the money, of course. A few quid to each individuals amounts to a brave few quid for an unscrupulous company, which always turns me into a bit of a Rottweiler. I got my manky bone, so I'm happy. Good luck getting yours.