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Reasons for customs detention of merchandise in Italy

International trade of products entering and leaving Italy has to get through customs, and there can be numerous reasons why the shipped goods are detained.

Customs detention of merchandise. Why goods are detained at Customs

Detention of merchandise at customs is a very serious problem for shipping agents and international logistics operators who take care of sending goods across different countries, from their place of origin to that of delivery. The majority of journeys that the goods go through to move from one place to the other take place by sea and by land, by inter-modal transportation.

Once the journey is over and the destination country has been reached, however, the merchandise is subject to customs examination. Irene Damiani, Attorney at Law and Partner at Damiani&Damiani in Italy, is one of the main experts in international carriage of goods – here she illustrates the main causes of detention of merchandise at customs.

Customs controls for merchandise entering and leaving the country

Customs are a State body present in all countries, whose duties are to examine the goods brought in, i.e. imported, and those brought out, i.e. exported. Moreover, customs are entitled to collect customs duties, VAT and port fees. This, however, is a static point of view on how international trade actually happens. Actually, in order to facilitate trade and commercial exchange, several States signed reciprocal free trade agreements. Such agreements ensure that the worldwide trade of goods and merchandise is regulated by laws as uniform as possible, so as to rapidly exchange goods and services.

Nevertheless, products entering Italy from outside the EU must go through customs and pay customs duties – by doing so, they are given customs clearance. However, the payment of the fees is not sufficient, as both the merchandise and the documentation travelling with it are examined. At this point, if anything unusual results from the examination, the merchandise can be seized, and this seizure can last a considerable amount of time.

The use of customs controls

Besides the control on customs duties collection, examinations on imported goods are aimed at protecting health and safety as well as public order. Products leaving Italy towards a third country are also subject to customs controls. In this case customs must verify the compliance to all laws regulating export of the goods shipped.

If customs controls of goods entering or leaving the country result positive, the merchandise will be provided with a customs note, i.e. a document filled and signed by the sender of the goods, where the final destination is indicated. The customs document will include all the requirements for the clearance of the merchandise.

Possible reasons of customs detention of merchandise entering Italy

 Counterfeiting of trademarks and patents: the merchandise examined might be deemed counterfeit. In this case, customs can seize the goods. In fact, it is advisable to attach the documentation recognising the patent, trademark and industrial property rights to the merchandise entering the country.

Prohibition of entry: the merchandise could belong to one of those categories of goods subject to prohibition of entry in Italy. There are several products subject to such restrictions, such as:

  • medicines
  • merchandise relating to environmental conservation such as corals, endangered animal species or plants;
  • weapons and explosives lacking a specific license;
  • drugs;
  • food deemed as dangerous for public health, etc.

Merchandise irregularity: the goods might not be compliant with the payment of customs duties. This can happen when they are shipped by a courier who delegated the transport to a carrier without having settled customs duties.

Faulty documentation: the documents attached to the merchandise might be insufficient or unclear. Goods entering or leaving the country must be provided along with documentation stating their nature, characteristics, quantity and any authorization needed. When this information is insufficient, uncertain, contradictory or unclear, the merchandise can be detained at customs pending the integration of the necessary details.

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