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Biotin - any import restrictions?

Hi,

For quite a long time (more than two years) I’ve been importing supplements from the U.S.

The supplements I imported were acetyl-l-carnitine and alpha lipoic acid combined pills. I’m not suggesting everyone rush out and buy them, but there is some evidence - albeit ambivalent - that they may be helpful for MS (so I’m not immune from the supplement bandwagon, either).

These pills are marketed here in the UK (e.g. at Amazon), albeit not at the exact same doses, and certainly not at competitive prices - hence I’ve always imported them.

Until recently, it’s worked fine. The company had a UK website for placing the orders, but they still got dispatched from the US.

After a few days, I’d get a note from Royal Mail, on behalf of Customs and Excise, that there was import VAT to pay. Expected, and quickly and conveniently paid online - then the goods would come.

But lately, the company announced they were closing the UK website, but UK customers could still order direct from the US website. Fine, I thought. The stuff always came from the US anyway, so shouldn’t make any material difference - just using a different portal. Even better, the US prices worked out a LOT cheaper, and they had a lot more choice, and a lot more special offers. In particular, they had a special offer on high-strength biotin, so after all the recent discussion here, I thought I’ll just try.

So I ordered almost a year’s worth of my usual supplement, at the offer price, and then three months of biotin at the special price too, and the whole lot together came to almost £100.

I got an order confirmation, and a dispatch note saying it had left, but it’s been nearly three weeks now, and no note from Customs & Excise saying you have a parcel, and there’s duty to pay.

I’m starting to think I’ve lost the whole £100-worth, because the seller say they have no responsibility for what happens after it reaches your country - specifically if it’s impounded/confiscated by Customs & Excise. They say it’s the customer’s responsibility to check.

Do you think the biotin might have been illegal? I can’t think it is the other stuff, because I’ve been ordering it for years, and it has always arrived no problem. Wouldn’t Customs & Excise even tell me if my goods had been seized and destroyed?

I’m quite concerned, as £100 of supplements is an awful lot to just write off, and I doubt I’ll be covered by the seller. I suppose I might be able to claim on my credit card - but not if it turns out I tried to import something that’s not allowed. But shouldn’t they still have delivered the part of the consignment that is allowed - the stuff I’ve always ordered in the past without a problem?

If anything has been declared prohibited, I can only think it is the biotin, and then only because of the dose (10000 micrograms), as I know biotin can be legally bought and sold here.

Anyone else had problems importing high doses? Is it likely it’s been confiscated? Wouldn’t they inform me?

A friend of my mother’s once (illegally) sent her diazepam through the post, and it disappeared without trace. I think it had probably been confiscated and destroyed, but Mum was never informed, and I discouraged her from pursuing it, because what she was trying to do was illegal in the first place. So I’m not sure whether they do inform you. It just doesn’t come.

Tina

So far as I understand it anything you can bring though customs your self can be sent via the post so long an accurate custom declaration is made by the sender. So far as I know there are no restrictions on biotin. However if the company completes the value section of the declaration the VAT will be levied if the amount declared is more than the duty free allowance and you will likely be charged an admin fee by the carrier in addition to the duty they have to pay on your behalf. This is why you do not break the law if you purchase a prescription only drug from a oversees source without providing a prescription your self. Depending on the regulations in the country of dispatch then that company may be breaking some local law but many seem to get round that be employing doctors to write prescription based on maybe a written statement by the purchaser. Now I would stress that I have no legal qualifications so it is just my understanding of the law based on what I have looked up on the web from what seem to be reliable sources. There is also in my mind a much bigger issue here related to using Internet sources for drugs or anything else in that I would want to do some investigation as to the source of anything I then put in my mouth.

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I am perfectly au fait with all that (and do have legal qualifications). I expected there to be both import VAT to pay and Royal Mail’s (exorbitant) admin charge, but I am used to all that, and just pay it, as it still works out cheaper than buying the same stuff in the UK.

I’m not worried at all about buying supplements from the US - to my mind it’s no riskier than buying from Holland and Barrett, or my usual UK supplier, Healthspan, as I have no way of knowing what they get up to behind the scenes, or if the contents are really what is claimed, either. Unless you have your own pharmaceutical lab, or a helpful friend with access to one, it’s always a leap of faith. I see no reason to believe a US “Healthspan equivalent” is any more dangerous than buying from Healthspan themselves. They had a UK website and a UK helpline for many years, until just recently, so must have met UK trading requirements.

I’m not silly enough to take a punt on anything I just found in my spam folder one day. They were (are!) a big US operation, with (until recently) a UK service desk.

Coincidentally, the largest order I’ve ever placed with them, AND the first I placed direct with the US website is the only one that’s ever gone missing.

I’m not worried about any of the rest - only that I might have lost £100-worth of goods with no redress, because if they have proof of dispatch, and claim things must have gone wrong in this country, they will accept no liability.

I know biotin is perfectly legal for sale in this country, and that’s why I had few concerns about ordering it, but as it hasn’t turned up, the only thing that crossed my mind was whether there is a maximum permitted dose, which it exceeded. :frowning:

However, in that case, I would still have expected to be informed that my consignment contravened some law or other, and why it couldn’t be delivered to me.

It is very unusual to wait this long, and not have had the usual customs invoice.

Tina

Hmmm. Biotin 10,000 appears to be legally for sale in this country, so shouldn’t have been any problem with being allowed to bring it in.

Looks like it’s just lost. :frowning:

Lost £100 is a lot, especially if the seller says it’s the UK’s fault, and they can’t help.

Directly ask customs, if it hasn’t been lost in the mail or on a boat, why if the package has been seized, why it has been. and if there is anything illegal in a package, the whole package is generally seized even if the rest of the stuff in it is legal. sounds to me like its been lost in the mail or still going through customs due to a backlog

oh and ouch at £100 if it has been lost :frowning:

Well, have first of all emailed the seller, to see if they can shed any light. They are on a different timezone to us, of course, and probably don’t work weekends, but I got an automated response saying I should usually hear back in 48 hours, so we might be talking Monday or Tuesday.

I’m a bit concerned the dispatch note says “International”, but does NOT seem to mention England or the UK, so could it have gone to Bristol, Ontario?

I would never usually place such a large order, but as I’ve been dealing with them for years without a hitch, AND the prices were very favourable, I thought: “Why not get a year’s worth all at once, and do the Biotin offer too?” It’s probably much cheaper than buying at three month intervals, and certainly more convenient than having to wait for their next occasional offer. They tend to roughly coincide with American public holidays or special occasions, so the next one would probably be Thanksgiving, but it’s not predictable, or always when you actually need to buy anything, so it pays to stock up when you get the chance.

I’ll just have to put some hope in the fact American customer service is, generally speaking, more highly rated than ours (perhaps because American customers are more ready to complain, or even sue), and that the company won’t want a loyal UK customer to have suffered a big loss of money on their first order since the UK-branch closed.

Thinking about it, I don’t think a credit card claim will be open to me, because the total value was under £100. Unless they’ve put a currency exchange fee on top, which might just nudge it over…

I deliberately kept it under £100, otherwise you trigger additional import duties, so caught between the devil and the deep, really. Spend more and get the credit card protection - but pay a stupid amount of tax, which negates your bulk buy savings!

Tina

No, they’ve charged exchange commission of £2.73, but I’m still only up to about £94, so won’t be able to use the card protection for transactions in excess of £100. Damn!

FWIW, I ordered mine from Pure Bulk, as 2 x 25gram sachets, not exactly the cheapest way to buy, I know.
They shipped it in an card envelope, via DHL and it came straight through without any bother with customs.
And, yes, the label does say Biotin (does not say 100%, just for pharmaceutical and professional use only).
The tracking with DHL worked flawlessly and delivery took about 5 days.

i would certainly ask your supplier, not only what address it was shipped to, but with whom.
Then you can check with the shipper which route it would have taken, which will give you the “Port of Entry”, and the obvious question: “Where is it”.
It’s the Customs at the PoE who you will then want to get onto next.

I have had trouble with a parcel shipped via normal US Postal Service which came into Bristol and was handled by the Patchway mail centre for a large fee (£13 as I recall). I paid the duty (US sender had put the decimal point in the wrong place) and asked the customs to consider a refund. I got the refund on the duty, but not on the Royal Mail fee.
In contrast. the PoE for DHL is the East Midlands Airport, and they made no charge at all for presenting to customs.

For almost £100, I would spend some time on tracking your shipment down. It may be sitting in a warehouse somewhere waiting for a fee to be paid that you have never been notified about.

Geoff

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I believe anything over £15 in value automatically incurs a Royal Mail “handling fee” of £8, for performing customs clearance on behalf of HMRC. This has certainly always been the case for me, whenever I order anything from abroad, and is expected, and not a mistake. For items between £15 and £100 in value, which are not gifts, they also collect 20% import VAT - again, normal and expected.

So I was expecting at some point a notification it was in this country, and a demand for approximately £28 (i.e. the VAT + handling charge).

Usually, this happens within a very short time of ordering, and as soon as I settle the duties owing, the parcel is delivered within the next day or two.

So I did not expect it to have been delivered yet, as I have certainly not paid the relevant charges, but more concerning, I’ve not even been notified of the relevant charges, which implies it has never reached this country.

I know it left by DHL, but they (the sellers, that is - I think DHL do if you pay for it) don’t do international tracking, and they also say they can’t be held responsible for any failure to clear customs, or any failings by the local carrier - which in the past has always been Royal Mail. It is the responsibility of the buyer both to check that what they are buying is lawful to import, and also to settle any fees and duty arising.

As far as I can work out, there should not have been a problem with lawfulness - one supplement I’ve been importing for years (and is available on Amazon, albeit at different doses and vastly inflated prices), and the other is just the biotin.

I thought it worth asking, in case anyone here had ever had the biotin refused at the point of entry.

It really is most frustrating. I’ve never had anything go missing, and the one time I place a much more expensive order than usual is the one time it goes. It would have been a rather large parcel, as I think I ordered 6 x 120 of the acetyl-l-carnitine + alpha lipoic acid, but for some reason they didn’t have the 120 packs, so instead dispatched 12 x 60. I checked I hadn’t been charged extra for the greater bulk, or for buying twice as many of the smaller packs, but apparently, I hadn’t. They must have just run out of the bigger packs, so it was a straightforward substitution to supply exactly the same number of tablets. Just a bit unwieldy!

I wonder if finding a dozen jars of anything - plus I think three of the biotin - was itself regarded as suspicious. Should have 15 jars coming in total, when the expectation was nine!

Tina

Perhaps customs have ‘held’ them to test the contents before shipping on? I don’t know how much that would delay things, but I know that the company I work for often has containers delayed for a week or so if customs take a special interest in that particular container… Fingers crossed they’re just delayed. £100 is a lot to lose if they’re lost.