A Calgary man was charged after he found a way to get around an expensive brokerage fee that was applied on top of the shipping fee for goods he ordered online from the US.

Bryan Rowe often shops online on websites like eBay for hard to find items.

He was looking for a case for a spotting scope and says a store in the US was the only place he could find the $27 item.

Rowe was willing to pay the $20 UPS shipping cost but when the driver came to his door, he wanted another $19.31 in brokerage fees and taxes before he would hand over the box.

The additional charges were applied because UPS cleared the package through customs for him.

"I don't think its right to say you're gonna pay this amount before you get your item even though you've already paid the shipping and for the item itself," said Rowe.

Rowe refused to pay and UPS took the box back to its warehouse.

He did some research and found out that he could clear the item through customs himself at Calgary's Canada Border Services Agency office.

At the CBSA office, Rowe cleared the box by providing the seller's invoice and the UPS tracking number.

"This is something that any individual could've done for as long as I can remember," said Celine Bourgoin, from CBSA.

Rowe paid only $1.37 in tax and duty and was in and out in a few minutes.

"Once they're at the desk with the officer, it shouldn't take long, typically 10 minutes," said Bourgoin.

Rowe says he went to the UPS warehouse and gave the desk agent his receipt that showed he had cleared the package through customs himself.

He says that the agent gave him his package but then her supervisor demanded he pay the rest of UPS fee.

Rowe refused, took his package and left.

He says that UPS then called Calgary police and filed a theft charge against him.

"I sought legal advice because to be under investigation for theft, I was thinking, what if my employer found out?" said Rowe.

CTV Calgary Consumer Specialist Lea Williams-Doherty asked UPS why it filed the charge when Rowe had properly self-cleared his package.

UPS Vice President, Michel Vallee told Lea over the phone that the company has yet to implement internal procedures regarding self clearance and hasn't trained its staff on how to process these cases.

Vallee says the Calgary supervisor wasn't aware that Rowe had self-cleared the box when he called police. He also said UPS' claim for brokerage fees against Rowe has been dropped.

UPS says it just recently got approval for customers to self-clear outside the first point of arrival and needs another six weeks to implement internal procedures and train its staff on self-clearance.

Lea has some advice on how to avoid the same problems that Rowe experienced.

  • Ask the seller to write "self-clear" on the outside of the box so UPS knows your intent then track the box yourself
  • If the box comes to your door anyway, reject it and get the tracking number
  • Next go to the CBSA office at 27th St. and 25 Ave. N.E. and give them a copy of the invoice from the seller and the UPS tracking number
  • CBSA will decide if it needs to inspect your package or release it without inspection and will calculate the tax or duty owed
  • Take the receipt to the UPS warehouse at 22 Aero Dr. N.E., and claim your package.

For more information call the CBSA office at 1-800-461-9999 of visit their website.