Russians may order embargoed food products through foreign online stores, say customs authorities
28.10.2015 180 views
Russian citizens are allowed to buy embargoed products from foreign online stores, the Federal Customs Service (FCS) has stated in a written answer to an inquiry from customs broker Unitrade on behalf of cross-border ecommerce platform Shopfans, EWDN reports.
In 2014, following the sanctions applied by western countries against a number of Russian individuals and businesses, Russia banned food imports from the EU, the US, Norway, Canada and Australia. While reiterating the principles of this ban, the FCS stated that the embargo does not apply to individuals ordering such products for their personal use.
Announcement of the customs’ decision did not go without with some confusion. On 21 October, 2015, soon after Shopfans published their official response, an official FCS representative denied that Russian citizens were allowed to buy embargoed products online. In a second U-turn on 23 October, the customs service reverted to its initial position, finally confirming that such online orders were authorised.
Shopfans will experiment with sales of non-perishable products from the US, but does not expect to generate significant business in this segment in the foreseeable future. “Orders of electronics or clothing are much more considerable,” Shopfans CEO Petr Sharapov explained to East-West Digital News.
Founded in 2010, Shopfans makes purchases on US online stores easier for shoppers from Russia and neighbouring Russian-speaking countries. Orders are sent to the Shopfans warehouse in the US before being grouped and sent to the customers.
Shopfans’ turnover, like that of its competitors, has dropped significantly since 2014 onwards, with the RUB fall and the domestic economic turmoil having made purchases on western sites more difficult for Russian consumers. “We’re not loosing active customers, but they tend to order less,” Sharapov said. The site’s turnover has dropped by about 50% this year, he added, the source cites. Sharapov claims that Shopfans has 100,000 regular customers in Russia, out of more than 300,000 registered users.
Shopfans is expanding to such new markets as Brazil, Australia and China. “US goods are popular there too. In many cases, US prices are lower than elsewhere in the world. In this sense, this business has good prospects,” Sharapov believes, the source cites.
Another Russian mail forwarder expanding internationally is Shopotam.ru. The website facilitates Russian consumers’ online purchases through international websites, including those based in the US, Europe and China. But the company has also launched recently an international mail forwarding system, christened LiteMF.com, to serve consumers from all countries.
In 2014, the Russian cross-border ecommerce market reached some USD 2.5 billion, according to the most conservative expert estimates, notes a market report by East-West Digital News. This market is expected to nearly double in 2015, with Chinese platforms capturing a growing share of the market.
Source: The Paypers
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