If you send packages or products abroad, then they will go through the customs clearance process. However, the packages may not always make it through. They can actually be returned from import customs to you or where you sent the packages from. When this happens, you may be wondering, “How did this happen?” or “What do I do now?”. Well, you’re in luck. In this blog post, we answer your questions regarding your item being returned from import customs and how to deal with it. That way, you’ll be better prepared when sending packages out of the country in the future, and have a better understanding of the customs clearance process overall. 

Let’s jump right in!


Why the Return?

While you may try to provide excellent service, customs regulations can be complex and strict. That being said, here are some reasons why your package may make a U-turn and get sent back from import customs:

  1. Wrong Documentation:

One of the most common reasons for package returns is inaccurate or incomplete customs documentation. Just like someone needs to get into other countries with the right paperwork, so do packages. Therefore, it’s important to make sure the required paperwork is filled out correctly. Plus, it should have the right details about the shipment and the recipient’s address. Any mistakes or missing information can lead to customs officials rejecting the package.


  1. Unpaid Customs Fees or Duties:

When shipping internationally, customs fees and import duties may apply. These depend on the country the packages are supposed to be sent to, as well as the value of the goods. If these fees are not paid in advance, or if the recipient refuses to pay them upon delivery, the customs authorities may send the package back to the sender.


  1. Restricted or Prohibited Items:

Different countries have specific rules and regulations that deal with the items that can be imported. Therefore, some products may be restricted or prohibited due to safety, health, or legal reasons. If you inadvertently ship a restricted item, customs may return it. Thus, you’ll need to find an appropriate solution for your customer.


  1. Failed Quality or Safety Inspections:

Customs officials will usually inspect packages to make sure that they keep up with quality and safety standards. If your product does not meet these requirements, it may be returned. As a merchant, it’s crucial to maintain high-quality standards to avoid this situation.


  1. Address and Delivery Issues:

A package may be returned if the recipient’s address is incomplete or incorrect. Or, if customs officials are unable to locate the recipient. Therefore, you should always verify and double-check the shipping address to prevent these issues.


  1. Packaging and Shipping Concerns:

Damaged or generally bad packaging can also be returned. Therefore, be sure to use sturdy and appropriate packaging materials. This way, you can protect your product during transit and customs clearance.

So, now that you know the reasons why your package might be returned from import customs, let’s see what you can do if it is returned.


How to Solve the Returns

A man is on the phone with a customer support team. He is smiling and having a friendly conversation. The words: "refunded" are shown above him.

It’s pretty disappointing to find out that a package you sent to a customer has been returned from import customs. However, it’s not the end. After a return, it is important to take care of the situation quickly and provide excellent customer service. So, here’s what to do:


  1. Communicate!

First and foremost, reach out to the customer immediately and let them know about the situation. From here, you can be honest and transparent about the package’s return from import customs. Also, be sure to let them know that you are working to resolve the issue and ensure their satisfaction.


  1. Look Over Customs Documentation:

Thoroughly look at the customs documentation for the shipment. Check for anything that is not accurate, or for missing information. In general, look for anything that might have led to the package’s return. Make sure all the details, including the customer’s address, are correct.


  1. Figure Out the Reason for Return:

Contact the relevant customs authorities or your shipping carrier. By doing this, you can figure out the reason for the package’s return. For example, as we have gone over, it could be due to a variety of issues. These can include incorrect documentation, unpaid customs fees, restricted items, or other issues. Overall, knowing the exact reason for the return will help you find the best solution.


  1. Offer Solutions:

Based on the reason for the return, you should try to offer some different solutions to the customer. If the issue is with the documentation, then you may need to resubmit the paperwork with the right details. If customs fees were not paid, then arrange for payment and reship the package. In the case of restricted items, then you likely will need to provide alternatives or offer a refund.


  1. Provide an Easy Reshipment Process:

If customs requires reshipment, make sure the process is smooth and on time. Make sure to inform the customer about the package’s progress. Further, provide them with a new tracking number. Offer expedited shipping if possible to make up for the delay.


  1. Learn from the Experience:

Take this opportunity to learn from the experience and improve your shipping practices. Review your shipping policies, double-check customs regulations, and invest in sturdy packaging to prevent future issues.


  1. Be Understanding and Apologetic:

Show you understand, and also apologize to the customer for any inconvenience caused by the package’s return. Assure them that you are doing everything possible to resolve the matter quickly and efficiently.


  1. Follow Up:

After the reshipment or resolution, follow up with the customer to ensure they received the package successfully and are satisfied with the outcome. This gesture demonstrates your commitment to providing exceptional customer service.


Final Thoughts

In conclusion, if you send packages abroad and import customs return them, it’s important to know the reasons why and how to deal with them. Understanding these reasons can help you avoid future returns and thus smoother international shipments. By focusing on accurate customs documentation, responsible handling of customs fees, avoiding restricted items, maintaining product quality, and using secure packaging, you can greatly reduce the chances of running into customs-related issues. 

If a package does get returned, don’t panic. Instead, communicate quickly with the customer, figure out the reason for the return, and offer solutions. By providing excellent customer service and learning from the experience, you change a setback into a good thing. 

You can strengthen your shipping practices, and build trust with your customers. Overall, make sure to stay informed and proactive while shipping. This will help your shipping process to be successful and hassle-free, even while sending worldwide. 

If you would like help finding a fulfillment partner/3PL that specializes in HAZMAT reach out to our Fulfillment Consultants and we can place you with a vetted fulfillment partner.


Find A 3PL