I have discovered a pretty good way to annoy people. Send them something from overseas via DHL and wait for the carnage to begin.

There is an inherent problem with the way DHL handles VAT on packages that it ships through international borders. I’ll explain. When a package comes into the UK – and probably any country – there is a chance that it will need to have VAT (or other import duty) levied upon it. This is distasteful, but part of modern life. The problem is not that those charges exist, but how they are applied and how DHL deals with it.

VAT is applied based on an item’s value, and what it is. So, in my case I was sent a phone to review (which was later sent back). Customs didn’t, to the best of my knowledge, open it, but they looked at what it was and the weight and applied a VAT amount. But because DHL sells delivery based on speed, it accepts these charges without question. And it’s here things get very tricky.

Imagine then, I sent you a housebrick. But instead of writing on the package, “housebrick, value £1” I wrote on the package “gold ingot, value £1,000,000,000” then customs would say, ah. gold, we’ll charge import and VAT on that. So DHL will collect the housebrick, deliver it to you, but never at ANY point mention that VAT is due. They will give you your brick, you will open it delighted, and use it to keep a door open, build a small wall, or whatever.

Later, without any agreement existing between you and DHL a letter will arrive demanding you pay them the VAT and import duty owed, plus, of course a fee for their trouble. You can, I’m sure, imagine that this could be quite a bit of money, and of course you have a near valueless housebrick, and are being charged a fortune in tax.

Of course, this example is extreme, but I am DYING to try this on the MD of DHL UK to see what happens.

In my example, a zero-value review sample was shipped to me from Hong Kong, and somehow had VAT applied to it. DHL then shipped it to me, but didn’t mention that there would be charges. Had they, I would have rejected the package. I would have done this because as you can imagine, with the number of samples I handle I could be out of a lot of money very quickly if I didn’t. But because I wasn’t told, I accepted the package, reviewed the phone, and sent it back.

Now, I have DHL and their arsehole collection agency badgering me for money. This is without us having any agreement whatsoever. They have applied their own charges of course, and now because DHL won’t accept that I am not liable, they have “sold” the debt to their rabid collection agency Control Account.

So, you can probably see why if you send me a package via DHL, I won’t be accepting it. Sorry.

Here is the invoice from DHL: