Israel OKs Legal Measure Making It Easier for Consumers to Order Products Online

Law will define 'personal import,' removing uncertainty and customs delays

File photo: An Asos package.
Bloomberg

The Economy and Industry Ministry on Monday approved a law memorandum that will make is easier for consumers to import products they buy online.

The measure which takes effect in two weeks, aims to define what constitutes a “personal import,” a practice that has become widespread amid a surge of online buying by Israelis at overseas websites like Amazon and Alibaba.

There were no clear rules about the number of items that could be imported, leaving shoppers wondering whether they might face duties when they placed an order, and leading to many delayed deliveries over items held up in customs.

Under the new rules, Israelis can use their personal import rights to buy up to five products at a time or 30 units of the same product, so long as the order doesn’t exceed $1,000, the ministry said.

In addition, the maximum amount of time it will take to get a personal import approved by customs officials will be cut to two days for a wide range of items, such as toys, peroneal care products, cosmetics, food supplements, auto parts, computers, television sets and tablet computers.

Products needed to renovate or build a home can now be considered a personal import and can be imported via a designated fast track.

The government has come to look at personal imports as an easy way to bring down the cost of living, because shoppers are not only exempt from customs on orders up to a certain value but also from the value-added tax.

The effect has been to bring down prices at Israeli stores, but has also drawn protests from retailers about unfair competition because of the exemptions.

In ministry hearings about the measure in the last three weeks, the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce said it “will destroy all existing mechanisms to prevent improper and damaged goods and destroy the business sector.”