It’s almost impossible to bargain hunt every physical store. E-commerce solves the problem. Ecommerce has made price discovery plain, while online reviews for almost every product made it easier for customers to choose between a good and an exceptional one.
Unfortunately, certain online retailers might not ship their products to certain countries. This barrier deprives customers of buying what they want, or they’ll need to buy the same product at a steeper price from a local store.
E-commerce websites like Amazon sell millions of products, including electronics under its brand, like Kindle tablets, Fire TV sticks, Echo Dot, etc. Despite shipping millions of products worldwide, Amazon-branded products are only available in the region of the e-commerce website.
For example, Amazon-branded products on Amazon.co.uk (UK) are available for England, Scotland and Wales, Amazon.de (Germany) or Germany, Austria and surrounding countries, etc.
Some clothing brands with an online presence might not ship to certain countries due to franchising agreements with a local operator. For example, a British clothing brand might have an exclusive franchising agreement with a local business. Residents might end up paying a higher price from the local business due to exclusivity, restricting people from buying the same clothes online from the same British clothing brand.
Parcel forwarding is a third-party service that solves the last-mile problem when e-commerce platforms don’t sell products in the same geographical region as the buyer.
Most parcel forwarding services are pay-per-use, i.e. they don’t require a monthly subscription. You only pay when you use the service.
Using parcel forwarding services is relatively easy. First, you may need to create an account with a forwarding service provider. The service provider will ask you to provide your home address during registration. You can use any delivery address you want.
Once registered, the service provider will provide you with the address of one of their hubs, i.e. the address you should provide to the online seller.
Parcel forwarding service providers may have more than one hub. Choosing the hub address corresponding to the seller’s location is imperative. E.g. if the seller is in the UK, use the UK hub address. If the seller is in Italy, use the Italian hub address.
Next, go to your favourite website and add the items you want to purchase to your online shopping basket. Upon checkout, use the hub address provided by the freight forwarding provider in the above paragraph.
To recap, give the delivery address, i.e. the parcel’s final destination, to the parcel service provider only and use the hub address provided by the parcel service provider on the seller’s website.
Once the payment is complete and the seller dispatches the parcel, it will arrive at the parcel forwarding hub. The hub will route the package to the destination country and deliver it to your doorstep.
Certain parcel forwarding service providers demand cash upon delivery. In contrast, others require an online payment when the parcel arrives at your home country but before it gets delivered to your home address.
Things worth considering
Certain online sellers offer free shipping for the geographical location where they’re based, e.g. free shipping to the UK. However, this might not always be the case. Check the postage and shipping costs before the final checkout.
Parcel forwarding services may take longer to arrive at their final destination than the seller’s direct delivery service. Some forwarders transport parcels to the buyer’s country once a week which may take longer to arrive.
For example, a parcel forwarder sends packages from its hub abroad in the UK to its warehouse in your country every Wednesday. The parcel can take a whole week to arrive. If the package arrives at the hub the following day, you’ll need to wait an extra week until it arrives. So if you’re considering buying a present for someone, think ahead to avoid disappointment.
Larger online retailers may have multiple fulfilment centres in the same country with different products. Suppose you order several items from the same online retailer. In that case, there is a chance that the parcel forwarding company will receive multiple parcels from different fulfilment centres of the same company.
The parcel forwarder usually has a base fee and a variable fee based on the weight and dimensions of every parcel it receives.
A few parcel forwarders might group multiple packages and charge one base fee. Others will treat each parcel separately, which will incur a base fee for each package that will increase the total cost.
Most of the time, parcel forwarders don’t bundle packages together. If you’re in doubt, ask the seller to bundle the orders in one delivery by sending a support ticket before ordering. Smaller retailers or clothes brands usually send multiple products of the same order in the same package. Usually, multiple deliveries are more synonymous with larger retailers like Amazon.
Taxes like Value Added Tax (VAT) get collected by the online retailer at the tax rate where the seller is based. For example, suppose you’re buying something from a seller in Luxembourg. In that case, you’ll pay 17% VAT to the seller, even though the VAT rate in your country, e.g. Hungary, is 25%.
Since Luxembourg and Hungary are EU countries, VAT gets paid once. You don’t need to pay more taxes.
Purchases outside the EU
If a seller from outside the EU sends goods to a country inside the EU, they may be subject to the country’s VAT and tariffs. These add to the cost of acquiring the product. For example, suppose you order something from the US. In that case, your country’s Customs will ask you to declare your item. Customs may ask you to provide proof of payment and pay the necessary tariffs before they release the parcel.
The same applies to purchases from the UK. Since the UK is no longer part of the European Union, Customs may still ask you to pay more taxes.
Most of the largest sellers, like Amazon (UK), Aliexpress, etc., are registered under the Import One Stop Shop (IOSS) scheme. These sellers collect VAT on behalf of EU countries on checkout, and EU buyers won’t need to pay extra VAT or extra fees when the parcel arrives in their country. The IOSS only applies to goods whose value doesn’t exceed Euro 150.
The VAT component must be shown separately in the payment receipt as proof that the buyer paid VAT.
Holidays can generate abnormal amounts of traffic to e-commerce websites. Some e-commerce giants offer huge discounts to entice customers to buy more. Notable mentions include Amazon’s Prime day (mid-July), Single’s day on Aliexpress (11th November), Black Friday (the following Friday after the 25th November) and Cyber Monday (the following Monday after Black Friday).
Holidays can create logistic nightmares for postal and courier services. Parcel forwarding can create more risks, as the parcel can get ruined or go missing. I recommend against using parcel forwarders during shopping holidays.
The seller is responsible for the product arriving safely to the buyer. However, when you use a parcel forwarder, the seller is only responsible for the product arriving safely at the parcel forwarder’s hub.
Based on experience, hubs don’t take any responsibility if an item gets damaged in transit or goes missing. Sometimes bad things happen, and it’s a blame game between the seller, the courier who delivered the item to the hub, and the hub.
Most parcel forwarders are reputable. A few offer insurance to protect against missing or damaged items. One has to keep in mind that insurance adds to your costs. However, one has to decide whether the insurance is worth the cost.
Parcel forwarding is terrific. However, there’s a slight risk that things can get damaged or missing in transition.
Suppose both the seller and the buyer are in the EU. It will solve problems related to taxes and customs, delivery time, longer delays, etc. Certain e-commerce giants like Amazon offer EU-based websites like Amazon Italy (https://amazon.it), Amazon France (https://amazon.fr), etc.
However, you can get stuck if you’re not fluent in Italian, French, German or Spanish. There are two solutions to the problem.
First, Google Chrome allows you to translate almost any page into English. You can use this by right-clicking on a space on the page you’re on and selecting “Translate to English”.
Alternatively, Amazon Germany (https://amazon.de) allows you to switch the website by clicking the German flag next to the search bar, selecting “English – EN”, and clicking the “Save changes” button.
As a buyer, you must choose between buying a good directly from a seller or which doesn’t ship directly to my country through a parcel forwarder. If the overall cost is negligible, I will buy the good directly from the seller rather than through a parcel forwarder.
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