September 1, 2017
EDITOR'S NOTE: This blog post was originally posted on July of 2010. It has been updated to include additional information.
According to Ecommerce News Europe the eCommerce industry was worth an estimated 920 B rubles, $16.01B USD, in 2016. However, the majority of eCommerce doesn't occur within Russian borders but rather cross-border, mostly from China. International eCommerce brings a lot of unique challenges and can often be difficult for companies to navigate on their own (which is why we wrote this blog post on Export Compliance).
Currently Russian customs authorities have a restriction on dutiable shipments sent to private individuals. What does this mean? Almost any product subject to tax and duties being sent to a private individual in Russia will be held and inspected by customs. This can take days and even weeks, where they are being looked at with extraordinary scrutiny in an effort to improve the accuracy of accompanying shipping documentation. This is on top of the standard export process of RPL screening, which we cover in this blog post. Even after this process has taken place, there is still no guarantee that the package is going to be shipped out. In the event that it isn't shipped out, it will often be returned to sender, forcing the merchant to pay for the return shipping — expensive and not fun.
When deciding to offer products to consumers in Russia, here are a few things to consider:
- Do not ship anything that is automatically dutiable or needs to be declared. Here are a few USPS thoughts on their Russian country “conditions” help page.
- Make sure you know the 10 digit HTS (Harmonized Tariff Schedule number) to speed things through customs.
- Ensure the retail value is less than $100.00 USD (Standard insurance).
- Do not include any prohibited items and it's best to eliminate any questionable items per the Russian Federation (e.g printed matter may be prohibited, which would require a more detailed inspection).
- Send the package via USPS mail, which has simplified forms (but no tracking).
We don't have a guaranteed solution for ensuring prompt accurate shipping to private individuals in Russia.
If you sell on eBay and value your eBay ratings, really think twice. Same goes for any public marketplace allowing Russian buyers and has feedback forms.
And remember, even with all this it could get stuck in customs, sent back or both. You and the buyer will be waiting for two weeks while the shipment clears customs, not having access to information and potentially in a losing situation. A good thought is to modify your returns policy and make explicit to Russian buyers that they take the risk of shipping. Get it in writing if you take credit cards (another concern).
With the Shipwire Platform, you can adjust your settings to prevent your orders from shipping out to Russia without your approval or review by changing the settings to hold all international orders for review in your fulfillment centers. If you are a Shipwire user, there is a setting in shipping preferences to hold international orders.
The good news we found is that Russian customs says you can still do fulfillment of commercial shipments addressed to businesses.