Discusses common customs problems and why goods are rejected by the government of an importer’s country.
Last Published: 10/18/2016

Customs Problems
If your company is experiencing a problem with a foreign customs house, make sure you’ve correctly identified the problem.

Most common customs-related problems:

  • Misclassification
  • Duties higher than anticipated
  • Customs office won't clear the shipment to your buyer/importer
  • Customs office invoking health, sanitary, or safety issues
  • Labeling issues involving a certificate of origin, weight, ingredients, marks, etc.
  • Inadequate documentation provided by the exporter
  • Issues involving the import or packing regulations of the receiving country

To resolve customs problems, try the following:

  • Involve the buyer/importer. Chances are they can help or at least find out what needs to be done to resolve the problem.
  • Involve your shipping company. Most shippers are responsive to the customs problems faced by their customers.
  • Involve your insurance company.
  • Contact the foreign customs' office.
  • Contact the Commercial Service office in the appropriate country.

Goods Rejections
Governmental Rejections
When goods are rejected by the government of an importer’s country it is typically for only one reason. The country of the importer has banned the importation of the particular good. One good example is Singapore. Singapore has an absolute ban on the importation of chewing gum. Other countries have banned the importation of various types of used or refurbished equipment. Goods may also be rejected if they are not properly labeled or marked with required certifications. The best remedy is to conduct proper research in advance of any sales to determine that there are not particular restrictions on your goods that would result in their exclusion from the country of import.

For assistance with these issues, contact your local U.S. Export Assistance Center.

Importer Rejections
Importers may reject goods for a number of reasons. There are typically three origins for these reasons for rejecting goods: Exporter, Shipper and the Importer

1. Exporter Origin Reasons: The importer may reject the goods because of mistakes by the exporter. The exporter may have shipped the wrong goods, defective goods or goods that were improperly packaged or labeled. 

Remedy: If this is the reason for the rejection working through the local U. S. Export Assistance Center, an International Trade Specialist may be able to intervene through the Commercial Services offices in the country to determine the extent of the problem and recommend possible resolution.

Prevention: It is suggested that the company have someone in the company’s shipping department dedicated to overseeing all export shipments. This person should be the primary contact to work with the freight forwarding company. With such a strategy these mistakes are more likely to be avoided.

2. Shipper Origin Reasons: Sometimes goods are rejected because they arrive damaged or the goods are significantly delayed in delivery.

Remedy: Unless the goods were in a damaged condition when they were packed, goods damaged during the course of shipment are the responsibility of the shipper. Depending on which INCOTERMS are designated will determine whose responsibility the loss due to damage is. If risk of loss is still with the exporter, the exporter will need to make arrangements to ship replacement goods. Next step is to contact the freight forwarder to file a claim with the cargo insurance company. If the risk of loss is with the importer the exporter needs to provide the importer with all necessary information to file a claim with the cargo insurance company and make arrangements to ship replacement goods. 

Prevention: Minimizing damage during shipment is principally the responsibility of the exporter to make sure that proper crating and packing of the goods done. This is best determined by guidance from the freight forwarder.

3. Importer Origin Reasons: Most importer origin reasons for rejecting the goods generally do not have a valid basis. Reasons may include they changed their mind, ordered the wrong goods or can no longer pay.

Remedy: The key remedy is to assure that arrangements have been made for a secure method of payment. If there is a payment issue then working through the local U.S. Export Assistance Center request trade complaint assistance through the country post.

Prevention: The most important step is to conduct proper screening of buyers and partners. There are numerous sources of assistance to help with the selection process from the Commercial Service and private organizations. Contact the local U.S. Export Assistance Center for guidance and additional information.

Prepared by the International Trade Administration. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.

Transport and Logistics