Unlike many Australians, most Canadians are unaware of the advantages of importing CDs & DVDs/Blu-Rays and the opportunities they are offered when our dollar is strong. This guide will explain the various savings that can be obtained by importing music and film.
Tax & Customs Duty Exemptions
Parcels that contain CDs & DVDs/Blu-rays whose total value is less than $20 in Canadian funds are exempt from duties, customs handling fees and taxes. This value is determined and declared by the foreign retailer and does not include s&h fees or any value added tax, so this enables you to save money on the Canadian retailer mark-ups on imports and resulting sales taxes on such a purchase, provided that you aren’t using a post office box or commercial intermediary to import this material.
Gifts from relatives are also exempt, up to a declared value of $60, so you can send gifts to your Canadian relatives without worrying, provided the foreign retailer didn’t use UPS to ship it (see shipping and handling)
Currency Rates On Postal Imports
Unlike most Customs brokers, Canada Post uses their own currency exchange rate to determine the value of a shipment in Canadian dollars – They only alter the exchange rate if the rate was stable for two days so this can result in savings if you do pay the 7% duty on compact discs or DVDs.
If your shipment does incur duties, it will also incur a customs handling fee ($9.95 @ Canada Post) and sales taxes on the full value of the shipment if is doesn’t qualify as a gift ; $60 is removed from the declared value prior to the implementation of the duty and tax on gifts.
Many countries like Australia and the U.k have value added taxes added to their products. These taxes are removed once these sites determine that the order’s destination is international resulting in a reduction in the price of the products in one’s cart.
Shipping & Handling
Rates and shipping times of course differ from one country to another. You can choose to have it shipped faster but be warned, the extra costs can be quite considerable, especially when a courier company has their own fees like UPS.
Your best bet are national postal agencies like the United States Postal Service (USPS), Royal Mail and Australia Post – These agencies ship their parcels to Canada Post and their brokerage fees are reasonable. But note that when it comes to France, you will need to hunt around – Their shipping and handling rates are exorbitant, generally.
Free Shipping Offers
Only a few foreign retailers offer free shipping to Canada : CD WOW! (UK), Recordsbymail.com (USA/Orders over $249), PlayUSA.com and Secondspin.com. But some sellers on eBay offer free shipping on orders that include multiple items.
Major credit cards like Visa, MasterCard and American Express are the best method of payment for imports. They offer more protection when it comes to disputes and fraud in comparison to money orders and payments by cash, the later being ill advised.
Paypal is also preferable for payments in some instances but it has its drawbacks. It does allow individuals to pay and charge their credit card in Canadian funds, allowing savings when it comes to the exchange rate fees some credit cards charge. But it is best used with retailers, sites and charities you know and trust.
Many American releases are quite affordable on the American sites, even with the exchange rate, but comparison shopping is still in order because of the shipping and handling rates of these retailers. Very few foreign retailers offer free shipping to international destinations so it’s best to keep the declared value down to take advantage of the tax and customs duty exemptions.
Importing CD singles
CD Singles are way cheaper in the countries they are originally released, more so when they are available as pre-orders. So you can save money by importing these from Europe or Australia, the later being better because of our stronger currency. I personally recommend amazon.co.uk, HMV Hong Kong and Sanity Australia.
Importing Used CDs
Used CDs are great because their declared values are very low. Their shipping and handling fees are generally the same as new CDs. But always pick a retailer with good return policies in case the used merchandise isn’t up to par or isn’t as described.
Importing DVDs/Blu-Ray discs
Some American releases can be purchased for less than ten to fifteen Canadian dollars, twenty for some newer releases and pre-orders. But international releases are generally incompatible with our equipment though Region 0 ("region free" / "all zones") DVDs in the Pal format are compatible with some North American equipment and Region Free blu-ray discs should be compatible with most North American players.
Non North American Region Free discs are best purchased from the U.K or Australia, due to the shipping and handling costs in some counties, like France – Pre-orders also result in savings.
Importing Used DVDs/Blu-Ray Discs
Used DVDs are best ordered within North America due to compatibility issues and shipping and handling fees. Some deals on foreign DVDs can be found on the auction sites but don’t forget to check the seller feedbacks !
eBay and Paypal are generally good services, provided that you don’t encounter a problem. If you do, you may end up with less cash because of the fees and costs you’ll incur even when the seller is at fault.
For example, I just recently purchased a heavily scratched David Hallyday CD from an American, who had it shipped from China. This purchase cost me about US$14 plus the paypal fees and when I proceeded with Paypal’s resolution center, I was asked that to send it back registered so that Paypal could attempt to get my money back. That would have at least cost me $11 in Canadian funds if the seller wouldn’t have refunded me.
This case was resolved relatively easy in comparison to a previous incident i’ve had with a Las Vegas based seller (that sold a non-existant "official" Phil Collins DVD to me) so your best bet is to do your homework on sellers you don’t know : Read the sellers feedback and avoid sellers that are arrogant, condescending or belligerent in their responses to neutral and negative feedback. And ask questions of the origins of the CD or DVD by email, especially if you encounter feedback stating the seller sold bootlegs and material originating from problem areas like Russia, China and the Eastern European states.
Alternatives to eBay
Amazon’s Marketplace and ZShops are good alternatives to ebay, although there are limitations when dealing with sellers who aren’t on Amazon.ca or Amazon.com. Some do not ship internationally and shipping & handling may be expensive from certain countries, like France.
Also available are GEMM and Musicstack, where several retailers can be searched at once. Both can be used to search for rare and used recordings, including LPs and 45’s. But if you’re looking for videos, books and memorabilia, these listings can be found on GEMM.