Industry Talk

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Christmas Gift Customs Chaos: 30% of International Parcels are Delayed and 12 % Will Miss Christmas Day

The international courier price comparison site ParcelHero is warning that last year 12% of all gifts shipped beyond the EU missed arriving in time for Christmas, and a third were significantly delayed: largely because they were wrongly labelled or hadn’t allowed time for Customs clearance.

Says ParcelHero’s Head of Public Relations, David Jinks MILT: ‘Our research reveals 12% of all Christmas gifts going through Customs were delayed for so long they missed the big day last year. That’s why we’re urging people to use ParcelHero’s Christmas deadlines tool to find out the final safe mailing date.’

Says David: ‘It’s really important that people double-check the last mailing date for the country they are shipping to; and declare the contents and value of each item inside a parcel on the Customs invoice. Too many senders just write “gift” on the form, which means the parcel could be significantly delayed’.

David explains: ‘Incorrectly filled Custom’s forms lead to hold ups and sometimes unexpected duties which the receiver will have to pay; and that can mean an empty space under the Christmas tree. Senders must ensure they allow time for Customs checks and write an accurate description of their parcel, rather than just “gift” or “present”.’

And David warns: ‘Customs officials aren’t known for their delicate touch. Woe betide meticulously gift-wrapped items if the sender has skimped on the Customs form. The official will have to rip open the beautiful parcel to check its contents; and that’s not a pretty site when it finally arrives. In fact, customs officials may check any parcel, whatever the invoice wording, so we recommend using easily opened gift bags rather than wrapping presents.’

Advises David: ‘Using a parcel comparison site such as ParcelHero makes filling out these forms correctly easier; because senders complete a simple online version of the form. But inexperienced shippers should still take care to give a proper description of each item in their parcel.’

Continues David: ‘Many people only send a parcel outside the EU at Christmas time, but by using our deadline tool it’s easy for even the most inexperienced to find out the final recommended mailing date to every country. And it may be earlier than many senders think. For example, we are advising 15 December for gifts to India; even though they can leave it until as late as the 18th December to send to Australia.  And, surprisingly, you can leave sending to the USA until 21 December; that’s the same final date as shipping an item to France, even though France is much nearer. That’s because there are many US express courier services competing for last-minute Christmas orders.’

But David cautions: ‘We really don’t recommend leaving sending an important present until the very last moment. The final delivery dates will be for express services, and these can cost significantly more than standard international shipments.’

David concludes with some encouraging news: ‘We Brits are getting better at Christmas international deadlines. Back in 2015 our research revealed a whopping 49% of all gifts were delayed at Customs; so 30% is a lot better. But try telling that to your niece and nephew eagerly awaiting their Barbie ambulance and Lego Hogwarts’ Express this Christmas, if your gift is one of the unlucky 12% that miss Christmas entirely.’

Discover the final dates you can send a parcel in time for Christmas to 220 countries across the world – and the final Christmas order dates at all your favourite UK stores –  at