(CMR) Customs has changed the process for how a person appoints an agent to clear their goods and provided no advance notice of the changes. The message of the new procedures appeared on the Customs Online System (COLS) when agents accessed it on Monday. It apparently is effective immediately.
One agent explained to CMR that their agents were confused as to why they could not enter the usual appointment of agent forms before realizing that this significant change has already been implemented.
It is now the responsibility of the purchaser to go into the custom's system and register themselves before then appointing their agent. It provides explicit details on how this process is to be done, but those instructions have not been provided to the general public but instead given to agents via the COLS system. One agent noted:
“The rollout of this is highly unprofessional. Customs provided to notice of this change and just sprung it on us as agents. Event the end consumer was not notified – not so much as a press release has been issued.”
Customers have the ability to now submit for an appointment of an agent as well as remove agents.
Prior to this change on Monday, agents were responsible for this entire registration process. The customer was only responsible for completing and signing an authorization form giving the agent the permission to land and clear their goods. It has been argued customers will not be able to figure out the complex COLS.
It appears that the agent will then have to check the COLS periodically to see what customers have completed the process.
This adds a layer of additional works for the agents whilst actually taking away what many see as part of their primary function to the consumers. One explained it in this manner:
“The role of the agent is to reduce the headache for the consumer. Now CBC has added it to them without even consulting us. We don't feel like we are true stakeholders in this process – instead, they just dictate to us with no consideration of the practicalities involved. Many clients do not have access to a computer and so this may be a significant barrier for them. CBC really makes being an agent cumbersome.”
It is unclear if the customer will be given their own TIN # by COLS. It is also unclear if existing customers will have to re-do their appointments for the COLS system. When asked for an explanation as to why these changes were necessary it appears that it is part of the government's overall e-commerce rollout plans.
These recent unannounced changes to the goods importation procedures by Customs and Border Control have left some of the island's freight forwarders demanding an audience with the government and responsible minister, Deputy Premier The Honourable Chris Saunders.