International Trading Practices

Buying and Selling Antiques Online

International Trading
Shipping responsibilities of Seller and Exporter

Many sellers on Ebay and other online selling venues never have done any selling before starting on Ebay, not to speak of international selling - they are amateurs  whom the Internet suddenly has given the opportunity to do small scale (private) international trading. They often do have little knowledge of the basics of international trading.
Some have statements on their product pages that claim:

"no responsibility for goods once they have been dispatched"

According to customary trading practices AND logic, they cannot claim to be not responsible in case their items reach the recipient in broken or in damaged condition.
Their irresponsible claims only show that they do not have the intention to resolve any such problem in any way, and that they are unprofessional! They do not know the basics of customer service either and are ignorant of trading practices.
The Chamber of Commerce in your area can provide the pertinent information as to the DOs and DON'Ts of international trading. For those starting without prior experience in international trade, it would be a good idea to have a look at the INCOTERMS, even if it is only to deal with buyer queries/problems appropriately.

International trading practices and legal issues

In international trade seller and buyer responsibilities are regulated by international trade agreements and respective country laws. Some countries' laws can render sales conditions or clauses that do not correspond to local consumer protection laws invalid!

In a sale (whether it is a straight purchase or via auction bidding), if the merchandise does not pass directly from the seller into the buyer's hands, there is always an "intermediary", namely the shipping service taking the responsibility to deliver the items safely to the buyer. This could be the postal service, a courier, or any other sort of shipping service.
The merchandise is passed from Seller to Shipping Service (or courier or freight company), and then from Shipping Company to Buyer. In most cases multi-modal transport is involved. This includes post parcels. 

Seller and shipping company (postal service) both have certain responsibilities to ensure that an item lands safely in the buyer's hands. Basically, the seller cannot legally refuse his/her responsibility with a statement like the above. That is because proper packaging and dispatching is solely the seller's responsibility.

Shipping companies, on the other hand, hardly ever will refuse responsibility for their part, if a breakage happened during shipping, unless the seller was negligent. They are professonals and know the responsibility coming with their part of the work. They have insurance for accidental damage.

But how do sellers prove their packaging was NOT negligent? ...normally they can't!

A poor trading attitude and lack of basic customer service are bad a seller's reputation. The seller's responsibility is to pack the sold item(s) safely and hand it(them) either directly to the buyer or to the shipping company (post office, etc.).

When ceramic items arrive broken, without any signs of external force or other shipping accidents visible, the responsibility is ALWAYS with the seller. Her/his packaging was undeniably negligent, if a ceramic item got broken but the box shows no signs that undue force was applied to the exterior.

The shipping company never opens packages, and if the outer box shows no signs of damage and seems sturdy enough, they will accept the parcel(s), not knowing how good items are packed inside. A package may  be opened for the first time by customs, when it arrives at the port of entry (airport) in the destination country, or by customs in your General Post Office, where customs is located for post parcels.
Any seller refusing to resolve breakage is basically a candidate for an insufficient or negligent packaging claim. Professional sellers will usually resolve breakage speedily and without further problem, often they will have insurance for such cases.
Unfortunately, many negligent Ebay sellers don't!
They are just amateurs with an irresponsible disregard for their customers. Note: Many Ebay sellers and buyers are probably unaware of the fact that Ebay rules, etc. could be invalidated by existing trading laws, and that they may even be legally liable.

Another example: Ebay sellers often state that the buyer is responsible for paying import duties in their country. While this is true, it is stating the obvious. Unfortunately this further shows ignorance of regulations by both, the seller and buyer. The buyer needs to be educated too about this, but for the seller knwoing this is a must. Why? It is the duty of the seller to add a P/I (Proforma Invoice) in the parcel, for customs inspection. Professional Ebay sellers often add a copy of the Ebay product page instead. That seems acceptable. At the very least the sender must put "antique" in the name of the item on the declaration form he/she fills for post parcels. It should always be stated that an item is antique if it is.

Import Duty for Antiques

In many countries the import of antiques over 100 years old is duty free anyway.
Read this relevant information - for buyers and sellers.


Parcel tracking

Here is a link to a site where international tracking of your registered parcels in over 100 countries is possible, no matter in which country the seller or buyer is located:

Main page for tracking post and courier parcels, air and sea cargo
Track Post parcels/EMS

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