Cross-border online shopping
UPDATE: THe Austrian Post has decided to cease its service buybuy. The website will be offline on February 12th, 2016. Find more information here.
Buying goods from shops in the US and UK - the Austrian Post promises uncomplicated processing of formalities and quick delivery. The Austrian test magazine Konsument went shopping - and learned how to exercise patience.
Buybuy is a postal service that provides recipient addresses in the USA and Great Britain (GB); e.g. for orders from traders who don't deliver to Austria. The shipments arriving at these addresses are being forwarded to the "real" address of the consumer in Austria. Furthermore, Buybuy offers to handle all import formalities. They promise to be fast, reliable and uncomplicated - KONSUMENT took a closer look.
Bild: Buybuy promises uncomplicated delivery of packages from the US and UK.
After subscribing at buybuy.at you receive a client number. This number is being attached to the address of the buybuy centre in the US or GB. As soon as the shipment arrives there, the consumer in Austria gets a notification via mail, with information regarding the costs of the further delivery as well as the expected customs fee and the import sales tax. When the consumer paid these expenses with credit card or PayPal, buybuy forwards the packages to his address.
LogoiX: save shipping costs
The idea behind buybuy is not new. In Germany, LogoiX has offered such services for years. Austrian online shoppers use them to avoid high shipping costs of some traders.
Buybuy: discount for group orders
Shipments arriving at a buybuy centre can be stored there for up to 21 days without charges; if further deliveries for the same consumer arrive during this period, they can be combined to one optimised package. As a consequence, the consumer only has to pay for one delivery and not for every single package (group discount).
Customs and taxes
Buybuy advertises its service to process all import formalities and to deal with problems that may occur with customs or delivery. Flaw of this advertisment: Goods imported from UK are neither subject to customs nor to the import sales tax. Imports from the US are duty-free up to 150 euros, the import sales tax is only charged for goods valued above 22 euros (10 to 20 percent).
If import duties occur, the processing is problem-free as long as the sender makes a proper declaration. The Austrian Post collects the import and customs charges (plus a service fee of 10 euros) and forwards them to customs. At buybuy, either the consumer himself handles the declaration (online, which is difficult as the website lacks sufficient explanations) or he agrees to an "auto declaration" by the buybuy specialists in the US. The result in the KONSUMENT test: A football fan cap was declared as an "antiqutiy, over a 100 years old".
Test shipments from US and UK
KONSUMENT ordered three shipments from the US (fan goods and dvds) as well as two from UK (beverages and shoes).
GB: Queen of Speed?
Regarding UK, buybuy promises a delivery time of 4 to 6 days from payment. The first test delivery took much longer: 27 days pure buybuy transportation time. That's approximately the same time a cyclist would need for the route London-Vienna (if he only cylces three hours per day with a maximum speed of 20 km/h).
USA: Yes, we can?
Ordering on December 1, arriving of the shipment at the buybuy centre on December 5. Notification of the KONSUMENT team - on request - on December 10. After paying shipment costs and import charges on December 12, they are told that the goods will be delivered between December 24 and 26. Until new years eve, nothing happens. Response to another request: "Delays at the EU import customs". Finally, the package arrives on January 13. The delivery time promised by buybuy: "usually 8 to ten working days". All in all, it took 44 days of which 39 days where under the responsibility of buybuy - 32 days, after the KONSUMENT team paid all charges, for the transportation overseas.
What about the costs?
The basic price stated is 14.90 euros per package (USA) respectively 5.90 euros (UK). Additionally, there are costs for fuel and road tolls as well as a fee depending on the weight of the package. De facto, these are 19.30 euros respectively 7.45 at least, as in both cases a minimum weight of 500 gram is calculated. 0.79 euros (USA) or 0.29 euros (UK) are charged per additional 100 gram. This doesn't sound like much, but it adds up and can become rather expensive.
Logistics provider don't always calculate with the real weight of a parcel but rather with the so called "volume weight" (length x width x height /5000).
Consumers always pay the higher price
Consumers always pay the higher price. Buybuy promises to check packages and eventually repack them. However, this wasn't the case with the UK shipment of KONSUMENT. They had to pay the volume weight which was about three kilogram more than necessary. This also makes the online charge calculator useless as consumers don't know the packing dimensions of the traders.
- Delivery times of buybuy are much longer than promised.
- It's not possible to exactly calculate the costs. Sometimes, additional costs account for 80 percent of the goods value.
- Buybuy doesn't handle product returns - this can become very complicated when it comes to self imports from non EU countries.
- The liability limit is only 15 euros per kilo, an additional insurance is expensive.
- It is recommended to be careful regarding goods with high weight or volume but little value.
- Alternative: Direct shipment of a (professional) trader who displays the exact shipping costs is a recommended alternative.
Copyright 2015 Verein für Konsumenteninformation (VKI)
The European Consumer Centre Austria (ECC) offers free legal advice to consumers who face problems with a trader or company in the EU (Member States, Norway and Iceland). If you have a problem with a trader or company from another country (like the US), please turn to the Verein für Konsumenteninformation (VKI) for help.