In addition to helping importers before U.S. Customs & Border Protection that are businesses, whether large or small, we also represent the “little guy” when they find themselves faced with a notice or letter from U.S. Customs informing them that it appears they have somehow violated the law. Usually, these people — often nascent entrepreneurs — are importing limited quantities of a product from overseas to make a quick buck or try their hand at a new business, and other times they are just individuals buying something for personal use.
These unsuspecting people get their goods seized by customs or get stuck with a demand to pay a penalty, for a host of customs violations, such as counterfeit/trademark infringement or incorrect country of origin marking. Then they must answer to the Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures officer and navigate a series complex sea of options and choices, without knowing what the effect in terms of money, cost of seized and forfeited goods, and time that their decisions will have. They usually do not have patience for those ignorant of the law and terse phone calls with them will do little to help you understand what is happening to you and your imports.
Lo, and behold: customs has published guidance for internet purchases for the public at large that explains, in simple terms, what the responsibilities are of a buyer purchasing from an online seller. The whole page is a must-read for anyone who is buying a product from overseas because, as it states:
It does not matter whether you bought the item from an established business or from an individual selling items in an on-line auction. If merchandise, used or new, is imported into the United States, it must clear CBP and may be subject to the payment of duty as well as to whatever rules and regulations govern the importation of that particular product into the United States.
Go have a look at the article “Internet Purchases“. It provides a checklist for internet purchasers to go through when ordering from an online seller, the declaration process, shipping methods, restricted merchandise, prohibited merchandise, and quotas. Of course, the information available can still be confusing, and should not replace the advice of an experienced customs lawyer. If you have had money or merchandise seized by customs call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. Once your merchandise is seized, Customs may issue a penalty for the violation of law itself. If you have received a notice of penalty from U.S. Customs call our office immediately to discuss the possibility of filing a petition to reduce the penalty amount.
We are able to assist petitions and in seizures by customs nationwide, including Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Buffalo, New York, and Los Angeles.