CTT customs process post-Brexit for delivery of a book from UK (a present)

My sons sent two presents for my birthday in early March 2021. One was ordered via Amazon and was sent and delivered from Amazon Spain. It arrived in good time for my birthday.

The second was a book which was delivered to one of my sons in the UK and he then took it to the Post Office and arranged for it to be sent to me in Portugal via Royal Mail and was tracked. He completed the necessary documents as requested by the Post Office. It was posted on March 3 and finally delivered on March 23, though this was only achieved after a lot of research, phone calls, and a degree of good fortune. Without the latter, it would have been highly likely that the book would have been returned to the UK.

It was very fortunate that he was able to track its progress. On March 10, he found that it was being held up in Lisbon, but neither of us knew why it was not being forwarded for delivery. On March 12, he was notified in Portuguese by customs in Lisbon that the book was in customs and awaiting release, subject to their receiving certain documents.

Neither of us knew what the process was nor what documents were actually required. I decided to contact customs in Lisbon and see if I could determine what was needed to get the book released for delivery. It was again very fortunate that I managed to find the correct phone number and was able to speak to someone in English.

I was advised that I had to register on the Post Office (CTT in Portugal) website and open an account and then find the delivery notification listed. As it transpired, this was a fairly easy procedure, and I was able to navigate my way to the notification. This confirmed that certain documents were required to be sent to customs before release could be considered.

The documents were an invoice from the supplier, proof of payment in the UK and my Portuguese fiscal number. On the notification, there was a note saying that a letter had been sent in the post to my address in Albufeira, Portugal. I received this letter the following day and, as it was written all in Portuguese, I had to undertake a translation, via Google translate, which took over an hour to do as there were two full sides of A4 paper of instructions and information. This was necessary to understand what was required and it also gave the terms and conditions relating to customs release. In those terms, I learned what would happen if there was no response from me. I would be charged storage charges before they decided to return the article back to where it had been sent from.

I contacted my son and asked if he could find the supplier invoice and proof of payment and forward this to me. After this call, I wondered if there was any difference in procedure as the book was a present to me and not an order that I had placed from Portugal to the UK.

I contacted Lisbon again and was advised that, in that scenario, I may not have to send an invoice and proof of payment but just stipulate the value of the book and the postage cost. My contact did also say that customs may still require the other documents. But in the first instance, I should just declare the value. I did this and awaited a response, which came the following day. Confirmation was given of release provided that I made a payment of €20 (VAT at 6% and an admin fee of €12). I then had to find out how to make this payment, which was not easy to determine on the website. However, I was able to complete a payment by bank transfer.

Two days later, I went onto the website and the notification was updated to show that the parcel had left customs. After the weekend, another update on the website confirmed delivery to the reception area of the site where my villa is situated.

How is the lay person expected to know what the process is to send and receive parcels for the UK to Portugal (indeed all of Europe)? This has all come about as a result of Brexit and the so-called trade deal between the EU and the UK government.

It was interesting to note that when I advised a brexiteer friend in the UK, she immediately blamed the EU for imposing burdensome procedures and not that it was the UK that decided to leave the EU and be subject to the rules of being a non-EU country. There is a large number of people who voted to leave the EU for reasons of sovereignty and idealism and who were not aware of the impact that leaving the largest trading nation would have, expecting that movement of imported/exported goods, provision of services and customs rules and regulations would not have any detrimental effect on life before UK’s exit.

They keep saying they knew what they were voting for. That is true, within their limited knowledge of how the relationship between the UK and EU actually worked.

Alan Ford