I'm taking Varkas suggestion that I should post this for the general public as well.
I took the time for Varka to write down something for all the current and potential german customers that want to order from BD and don't have an idea what they should expect when dealing with customs, shipping and fees.
Hoping that most of it is understandable, language-wise and theoretically, if not, you can hook me up, I'll gladly help if the time and my knowledge allows it
To start up, the postal service in Germany which delivers international packages is named DHL, just as UK buyers have Parcelforce for example.
The sending process and customs handling
After ordering from BD and getting all the information a buyer needs:
- - tracking information and
- the invoice (most important),
Yes, waiting, until the package gets dispatched from an international airport (for germans mainly LA California) in the US. When it gets dispatched from the US airport, the package gets a matchcode number (for DHL) and a german customer can track the package in two different ways now:
- - via the USPS-website or
- via the DHL-tracking website http://www.dhl.de (which will be more accurate now, since the package left the US and USPS interprets some stages of delivery differently).
When it arrives at Frankfurt airport it gets sent directly into Germanys main customs office (HZA = Hauptzollamt Frankfurt).
The customs agents there will check the invoice of the package, meaning they will open the package if they don't find any invoice or payment information on the outside of the box (for example in a clear foil). As BD doesn't put any invoices on the outside of their packages, this will most definately happen.
Generally, when ordering internationally there is a chance that this step gets overlooked.
Packages from Japan for example or other countries sometimes get shipped directly to the buyer, without customs checking the contents. But with packages from the US this chance is very very very low.
From the 8 times I ordered from BD and many orders from US-eBay, all packages were checked and hold by customs, so I can safely assume that all packages BD sents to german customers will get checked, mainly because BD toys are expensive and so they overlap a certain monetary value which I will explain later.
After checking the invoice the customs agents will ship the package via DHL to the nearest national customs office near a buyers location. When it arrives there, the customs agents -there- will send an information letter to the buyer that there is a package for him and that he should provide 2 copies of the invoice and the PayPal receipt.
The buyer can then chose between two methods:
- - go directly to the customs office and hand over the copies of the invoice and PayPal receipt or
- sent the copies of the invoice and PayPal receipt via postal delivery to the customs office.
The good thing about the first method is, that the buyer can get the package directly when he hands over the needed information and pays the fees. The "bad" thing is, that you most certainly have to open the package there and show the customs agents the contents of the package, so they can verify them with the contents printed on the invoice.
So, if you're a shy guy this could be embarassing. The very first time I ordered from BD I talked myself out of it so I didn't have to open it, the second time it didn't work :)
Personally I always do the second method for most of my international orders, because the opening hours of my customs office overlap with my work time. The very bad thing about the second method is the additional wait time a buyer has to endure (sometimes around or more than 3 weeks!), because after you sent in the copies of the invoice and PayPal receipt, your national customs office will send the package + invoices and PayPal receipt back to one of two main customs offices for processing the fees.
For me for example it means the package gets sent back 500km, gets processed, get sent back 500km to me, not exaggerating here.
DHL pays the fees to customs for the buyer -now- because the buyer has provided the invoices, PayPal receipt and did verify that he is indeed the receipient of said package. They can't do that before they aren't absolutely sure that the buyer is indeed the receipient of the package, because then they risk paying for someone that could possibly not exist.
After processing by the customs agent, the package gets sent from one of the two main customs offices via DHL directly to the buyer. It's best to check http://www.dhl.de for any status updates regularly so you know when to expect the package. DHL hands out the package to the buyer and demands the fees back they paid to customs.
- Dispatching from LA
- Arriving in Germany
- Customs sending out note to buyer to provide invoice and payment information
- Buyer either goes to customs office, pays fees and gets package or
-- sends invoice and payment information via postal delivery and waits additional 2-3 weeks
-- pays the fees directly to DHL when the package is delivered
DHL doesn't add any additional fees (unlike Parcelforce for example) if you chose the second method, even if they have to drive from top to bottom around Germany. You only have to pay the fees the customs office processes.
Sales tax and customs fees
Germans like bureaucracy...I hate it from the bottom of my stomach and sincerly wish for an easier tax system.
But there is a simple value rule when importing things internationally to Germany:
If value (in Euros):
- - 0€ - 21€ --> No sales tax and no customs fees
- 22€ - 150€ --> 19% OR 7% sales tax
- 151€ - open end --> 19% OR 7% sales tax + variable customs fees for x€
BD toys will always fall under the 19% sales tax routine, because the cheapest toy is already 60$ (Wallaby).
Books, pamphlets and everthing that contains written stuff would be 7%.
So it can be safely said that a german customer always has to pay the 19% sales tax no matter what if they order at least -one- toy. If they buy more, the possibility of additional customs fees rise as well.
If they only order, for example, 1-4 bottles of lube it gets complicated, because then the -customs agent- can decide if he adds up the value of the lube bottles + the shipping costs or not.
If he does, the buyer has to pay 19% tax, if not, the lube bottles are free of charge, but this can't be predicted.
As I wrote above, customs fees will be charged when the combined item value is higher than 151€.
But here lies a very big problem, you can't predict -what- customs fees will be added, because, just like the example with the lube bottles, this is in the hands of the customs agent that processes the package.
The customs agent can decide in what category he packs the "silicone sculptures".
Depending on that, the outcoming customs fees will be added upon the sales tax.
For BD toys it can be either:
- - Plastic / Artificial products = 6,0% up to a value of 200€ (mostly used when ordering from BD)
- Cosmetic products = 0,0% (basically no custom fees, had this two times while ordering from BD)
- A flat rate value of xx€ (had this only once, this was around 19€)
That means the following (example with my order that is currently on the way):
My order consists of 6 toys, total = 882,95$ = 650,65€
This means that I have to pay:
- - 19% sales tax on 650,65€ = 123,62€ (167,75$) definately, plus
- 6,0% Customs fee for plastic products on 200€ = 12€ (16,2ß$) OR
- 19€ Customs flat rate fee = 19€ (25,75$) OR
- 0€ Cosmetic products
Sales tax 123,62€ + Plastic products 12€ = 135,62€ (185,40$)
Sales tax 123,62€ + Flat rate fees 19€ = 142,62€ (193,94$)
Sales tax 123,62€ + Cosmetic Products 0€ = 123,62€ (167,75$)
These are the outcomes of the sales tax and possible customs fees I'm going to have to pay. You can see that the only thing you definately can predict is the sales tax of 19%, everything else is just "luck", if you happen to get your package categorized as "cosmetic products" for a 0% customs fee.
On a sidenote for the 7% sales tax on terms of the calendar BD is selling:
I don't know the exact contents of the calender, but I suppose there are explicit and pornographic images inside. Normally customs agents don't give a damn about this, but by german law it is forbidden to import pornographic images and/or magazines into Germany. This is a legal grey-zone, in which, again, the processing customs agent decides if he sends the package with the calendar to the customer or sends it to court for prosecution. I personally never had something like this happen to me. I import "naughty" furry mangas from Japan myself and they always went through without any problems, even got inspected once, but the possibility is still there, so I don't know if this is valueable information for you or not. The "baddest" thing that could result from a prosecution in a case like this would be a judgemental warning and a small fine to pay.
I talked to DHL, mailed to my national customs office, main customs office and even my local prosecutors office about this case, even submitted example pictures (in the caliber of the yiffy character art from BDs toys). All I got was that they couldn't help or tell me, IF such a thing would get prosecuted or not...helpful as always, welcome to german bureaucracy.
So the buyer himself is always at risk when importing stuff like this, keep that in mind.
If you need any more information or clarification about german import laws, laws in general, customs or delivery, feel free to contact me, I'm always happy to help!
Hope this helps potential buyers and gives them some definite answers to questions they'll have :)
EDIT - Addendum - FedEx
Since some time now BD added the option to deliver the packages via FedEx.
Personally I haven't yet ordered something via FedEx, so I'm compiling a small overview from peoples experiences, who already purchased from BD and let FedEx deliver their goods.
The most positive and luxury thing for customers choosing FedEx as their courier is that FedEx handles customs at the german border for them, making the order and delivery process now very very easy! It looks like you don't have to handle anything customs related anymore, FedEx does everything for you and delivers the package directly to your doorstep.
This service isn't for free of course, so FedEx asks for a small fee for handling your customs declarations which will be added ontop of your invoice.
There are two sending options:
--> From the name alone one can abbreviate that "Priority" will be handled faster, since it also costs a bit more than Eco, it is compareable to USPS Express.
--> "Eco" would be the "normal" way of sending the package, just like USPS Priority it is a bit cheaper but takes longer.
A little advice on the sidelines:
Since the upgrade to Priority isn't a huge leap in case of price, it would always be better to chose Priority over Eco. If you don't care about time and when to expect the package, you're service of choice will be "Eco".
FedEx doesn't operate via postal-shops like Hermes or DHL "PaketShops".
If you aren't at home when your package is going to be delivered, you will have a notice in your mail where you can call their customer-hotline and make up to three additional delivery dates until it gets send back.
And that takes care of the update :)