MOSCOW – International express delivery companies including DHL and FedEx have announced they would stop shipping goods to Russia because of stricter customs clearance rules.
The new customs procedures, put in place last year by President Vladimir Putin, make it harder for internet users to buy goods outside of Russia and has significantly slowed international shipments from sites like eBay and Amazon.
The Association of Express Carriers, which comprises Russian and international delivery companies like DHL, Pony Express, TNT, FedEx, UPS and others, said in a statement Thursday that its members were being forced to halt deliveries for private individuals as a result of new stricter customs requirements for goods crossing the Russian border that have led to delays in delivery.
“DHL Express has decided to completely stop deliveries to Russia of all goods for personal use starting from January 27, 2014,” said the company’s vice president of operations in Russia, Yury Shevchenko, RIA Novosti reported.
A representative of FedEx’s customer services department also confirmed the changes.
“Starting from January 21, it is forbidden to bring in cargo for individuals; only documents are allowed. This is due to new rules introduced by the Russian customs service,” she said.
UPS has not halted deliveries, but warned its customers to expect increased delivery times.
Russia’s Federal Customs Service denied it had toughened customs clearance rules and said it had issued “no new documents concerning the rules of processing such goods.”
“At present, customs authorities, including the customs department of the Moscow aviation hub, are ready to accept and process without delay all parcels being delivered to individuals by express delivery companies if they are submitted for customs clearance as required by the law,” the authority said in a statement.
Extra documents are now required for Russians to receive parcels from abroad, including passport details.
Business customers are not affected, Russian media report. Russians ordered about 30m parcels from abroad last year.
A senior manager at DHL Express in Russia, Yury Shevchenko, told BBCRussian.com that his company would totally halt parcel deliveries to Russian individuals from 27 January because of extra documentation demanded by the customs authorities.
The suspension is expected to mean extra business for the Russian state postal service, Pochta Rossii, though many foreign internet firms prefer to send their goods through Western express parcel services.
Reuters news agency says it has seen a draft letter indicating that other providers such as UPS and DPD also plan to suspend their deliveries of parcels to individual Russian customers.
TNT Express told the BBC that it “continues to offer its international delivery service to and from Russia without additional restrictions – customers can continue to use all our services as normal”.
The Russian market accounts for less than 2% of goods ordered on the internet and delivered by the express services.
However, local online are expected to benefit with the global companies stopping shipment.
“The losers in this situation are global online stores including EBay and Alibaba, which have been increasing shipments to Russia,” David Ferguson, an analyst at Moscow-based investment bank Renaissance Capital, told Bloomberg.
“Local Internet stores including Ozon.ru and Lamoda may benefit in the short term.”
Cross-border e-commerce shipments in Russia probably doubled last year to almost $3 billion, while the domestic online retail market rose 26 percent to the equivalent of $15 billion, according to researcher Data Insight.
“A lot of those Russians who made online purchases in global online stores aren’t eager to switch to the local ones,” said Boris Ovchinnikov, co-founder of Data Insight.
“They would rather make more purchases while traveling abroad.”