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Importing from the US from a friend

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Hi all, This is my first post so please go lightly :) I'm just getting into airsoft now at the age of 39, I've read up about UKARA and understand the process in getting a licence. Now, due to work I'm having my first game next month but then I aim to go atleast once every month. I have a good friend that lives in San Jose, California. He has offered to get me a G&G T4-18 for a bargain price from a local airsoft store and ship it to me. I need a bit of verification on this, I realize it's illegal to "Import" one, atleast if you have no UKARA. If he was to break it down into 3 or 4 parcels and label it as Toy gun parts and "Gift" to the value of $20 each. Would that be way of making this work? I do have another option of having him hold it till I actually have a UKARA, I just wanted it ASAP to use from day 1. I realize this is a touchy subject but is this classed as "Manufacture"? as it's A: just parts & B: Manufacture by definition would mean more than 1. I also had the idea of having 1 or 2 of the parcels sent to another address. Anyways, I hope to be on the field asap either way!

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Right, be prepared for a long answer!

 

Firstly there is NO such thing as a 'UKARA license.' There is no 'license' at all for Imitation Firearms ('IFs' or 'two tones') or Realistic Imitation Firearms ('RIFs') since they are not illegal to own.

 

Next, the law in this country (Violent Crime Reduction Act - VCRA - 2006) makes it ALWAYS illegal to sell, import or manufacture a RIF (though not to buy one if you are over 18). So if anybody imports or manufactures a RIF they are breaking the law. If they were arrested for doing this they could be prosecuted and face up to five years in prison, however they could avoid this by establishing a 'defence against prosecution' for doing so (which is why you always hear airsofters talking about having 'a defence').

 

There are several defences written into UK law, and the one used by airsofters is basically that you can have a defence to import or manufacture if you can show that you were going to use the RIF to play airsoft at a proper site with the the correct insurance. This is where UKARA comes in. They are an organisation that keeps a database of people who have memberships to sites with the correct insurance and who have played there at least three times. As a result, being on this database is generally the easiest (but not only) way to establish a defence.

 

Now to your situation! Whether you you import a whole RIF or import the parts and then manufacture one you WILL be breaking the law. The question then becomes whether you can establish a defence against prosecution for doing so.

 

In the first instance, importing a whole RIF, I'd say you'd have the most trouble. There's a high chance that customs would stop your RIF and then speak to you. Customs barely understand the laws, so UKARA seem to be the only thing they understand. That being the case importing would be a bad idea for you.

 

In the second instance, importing parts, you'd have more of a chance of getting them through. That said, customs do also stop parts, so you could have an issue. Mislabelling the cost of parts is illegal though, so if they discover that you'd also be in trouble. If all the parts do get to you then you putting them together is illegal as it's 'manufacture.' Realistically, however, once you've put the parts together who's to know? Technically speaking if you do put them together to play airsoft at a proper site then you've met the wording of the VCRA anyway and therefore DO have a defence against prosecution.

 

Anyway, the various risks and rewards are now yours to weigh up! Hope that helps.

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Right, be prepared for a long answer!

 

Firstly there is NO such thing as a 'UKARA license.' There is no 'license' at all for Imitation Firearms ('IFs' or 'two tones') or Realistic Imitation Firearms ('RIFs') since they are not illegal to own.

 

Next, the law in this country (Violent Crime Reduction Act - VCRA - 2006) makes it ALWAYS illegal to sell, import or manufacture a RIF (though not to buy one if you are over 18). So if anybody imports or manufactures a RIF they are breaking the law. If they were arrested for doing this they could be prosecuted and face up to five years in prison, however they could avoid this by establishing a 'defence against prosecution' for doing so (which is why you always hear airsofters talking about having 'a defence').

 

There are several defences written into UK law, and the one used by airsofters is basically that you can have a defence to import or manufacture if you can show that you were going to use the RIF to play airsoft at a proper site with the the correct insurance. This is where UKARA comes in. They are an organisation that keeps a database of people who have memberships to sites with the correct insurance and who have played there at least three times. As a result, being on this database is generally the easiest (but not only) way to establish a defence.

 

Now to your situation! Whether you you import a whole RIF or import the parts and then manufacture one you WILL be breaking the law. The question then becomes whether you can establish a defence against prosecution for doing so.

 

In the first instance, importing a whole RIF, I'd say you'd have the most trouble. There's a high chance that customs would stop your RIF and then speak to you. Customs barely understand the laws, so UKARA seem to be the only thing they understand. That being the case importing would be a bad idea for you.

 

In the second instance, importing parts, you'd have more of a chance of getting them through. That said, customs do also stop parts, so you could have an issue. Mislabelling the cost of parts is illegal though, so if they discover that you'd also be in trouble. If all the parts do get to you then you putting them together is illegal as it's 'manufacture.' Realistically, however, once you've put the parts together who's to know? Technically speaking if you do put them together to play airsoft at a proper site then you've met the wording of the VCRA anyway and therefore DO have a defence against prosecution.

 

Anyway, the various risks and rewards are now yours to weigh up! Hope that helps.

Thanks for the swift response. Sorry about my lack of terminology, I understand what you mean about the UKARA not being a licence now.

 

I want to keep this legal and obviously don't want to end up in jail lol. The cost of the gun to me is actually $100! (Told you it was a bargain). So there's no falsifying on the customs label, I regularly bring collectable toys into the country, the only problem I ever have is when I purchase an item from a registered business, never a private seller!

 

I thought I read somewhere that it's not actually illegal to import "Parts" that are labelled as "replacement parts".

 

The gun is without a doubt intended for proper use at a site, if I didn't actually build the gun until my first game that'd work for me!

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Importing parts isn't legal, it's the manufacturing them into a RIF afterwards that's illegal. That said, what the law says and how the police and customs act are not always the same thing. You can sort of see why too:

  • For one, some unscrupulous HK websites have offered to send RIFs over here 'in two parts' in the past to people with no defence whatsoever, thereby attempting to circumvent the law. With this in mind customs do sometimes seize larger 'parts' to ensure a second large part (and thus an entire RIF) is not following it closely on its heels (though to some degree you've predicted this already with your idea of sending to different addresses!).
  • Secondly is the fact that it's hard to tell a real AR receiver (which is illegal to import) from a toy one on scans, etc., and in some cases customs will be looking at a toy one once they've got it out of the packaging and still be saying: "that's a real one that is, OMG!" or: "well, that's a fake 'un, but you see what these criminals do is convert them to fire real bullets. Seize it!"
  • Lastly you also have the issue of people having new weapons sent over labelled as 'gifts' in order to avoid import taxes, VAT, etc. when in fact the item has been bought new from a business.

At the end of the day, for $100, you might as well give it a shot. If all the parts reach you then technically all you've done is import parts. That's not illegal. If you then put them together and manufacture a RIF then you have broken the law. But, to be honest, nobody is probably ever going to know or ask ever, but if you did want to ensure you are within the legal safe zone you would just need to ensure that if police came flying through your window five minutes after you had manufactured the RIF you could establish a defence against prosecution for yourself by being able to demonstrate (though a booking to play soon at a proper site at the very least) that you were manufacturing the RIF with the intention of using it a proper site with the correct insurance.

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It will save you a whole lot of potential hassle to wait until you can have a UKARA number on the package. If customs check the contents they will need proof that you have a defence, otherwise they may destroy the gun. They will not fall for the trick of sending it in parts.

Be patient or ask at your local site, whether they could take delivery and have the gun available for you to use until they are happy you have a defence.

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I never realised it was actually illegal to import, and that your defence literally is a defence against prosecution.

 

In fact I am ordering a gun today from a Polish company. Advice I have heard is out your UKARA number in the business line of the address so it shows up, and also you can write a message in an order commentary (ask them to write it on the box too)

 

So as I see it, just make sure UKARA # is clearly displayed (preferably more than one place maybe) and you should be fine. I know plenty of others have ordered from HK and Europe and one or two members here have bought from the USA, no problems at all.

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Good summation by Longshot. I've had a lot of parts sent over from the US and some GBB Mac-10's (2 in one shipment) - no UKARA number, nothing and everything sailed through customs. Everyone has a different story though.

 

How much is it to send a receiver from the US to UK these days? - I'm guessing around $20, is the courier USPS? After you've added up the cost of postage maybe you're only saving a few quid???

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Firstly a massive thank you for all the response. I'm going to be brave and give it a try. I spoke to a local Airsoft shop earlier today and they "Off the record" said it's a big loophole, good idea to declare it as "toy parts" with a respective value but it's how people get round it.

 

I think people get confused by the "Gift"option. If something is declared as $20 it doesn't have to be a gift, it's still within the UK import threshold (I should also say that I import huge amounts of 80's toys from the US).

 

On my own head be it, I know it would be far safer to just wait. I suppose it comes down to saving a fair bit on rental concidering I have a fair amount of kit to start off with, courtesy of a good friend who's in the cadets.

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So essentially, you're not really Snake Eyes you're Storm Shadow? :)

Hehe, maybe a bit of both..... just a bit fatter ;)

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Nice one snake - if i was in your boat I'd do the same. Please make sure you let us know how it goes with the import, costs / times etc.

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Nice one snake - if i was in your boat I'd do the same. Please make sure you let us know how it goes with the import, costs / times etc.

Will do, I know it's risky and I may end up with egg all over my face but it's all in motion now!

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Welcome Snake eyes, and as has been said before, a very good summary by longshot. I know this is a very contentious issue, especially for newbies, my first rifle was gifted to me by a friend who imported it from the states, in two parts, without a UKARA, it arrived promptly and with no issues, apart from a rather hefty fee in import duty! It seems you've got that covered with the smaller packages and your experience with importing. I have imported some spare parts and upgrades and felt the sting of the import fees, It does make it seem less like a bargain.

I wonder how many prosecutions there are in this area? or how many confiscations for airsofters importing items? The recent theft of airsoft weapons in Essex is an interesting case in point, but without any context it is difficult to analyse. I would guess those were stolen as part of a "routine" burglary and the thieves would try to sell them on or possible use them for criminal purposes.

Are there any instances of airsofters either with or without a UKARA defence having "conversations" with the authorities? Is is a big problem? I would guess that most airsofters, understanding the sensitivities surrounding this are very sensible, always transporting the RIFs in appropriate cases and only using them at registered sites (or indoors at their own home?!).

If stopped and questioned by the police, what's the response/reaction you can expect?

If this is already a thread elsewhere, my apologies.

Good luck snake, let us all know how you get on!

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Welcome Snake eyes, and as has been said before, a very good summary by longshot. I know this is a very contentious issue, especially for newbies, my first rifle was gifted to me by a friend who imported it from the states, in two parts, without a UKARA, it arrived promptly and with no issues, apart from a rather hefty fee in import duty! It seems you've got that covered with the smaller packages and your experience with importing. I have imported some spare parts and upgrades and felt the sting of the import fees, It does make it seem less like a bargain.

I wonder how many prosecutions there are in this area? or how many confiscations for airsofters importing items? The recent theft of airsoft weapons in Essex is an interesting case in point, but without any context it is difficult to analyse. I would guess those were stolen as part of a "routine" burglary and the thieves would try to sell them on or possible use them for criminal purposes.

Are there any instances of airsofters either with or without a UKARA defence having "conversations" with the authorities? Is is a big problem? I would guess that most airsofters, understanding the sensitivities surrounding this are very sensible, always transporting the RIFs in appropriate cases and only using them at registered sites (or indoors at their own home?!).

If stopped and questioned by the police, what's the response/reaction you can expect?

If this is already a thread elsewhere, my apologies.

Good luck snake, let us all know how you get on!

 

Thanks! It's odd as my oldest friend is in the Met police and is licenced to carry a real firearm, I was talking to him last night and he was unsure if he could even legally buy one lol? I realize that the whole UKARA thing is to control people that have an RIF.

 

I can promise you that IF this does work apart from testing it in private at a local cadet firing range I will be keeping it descreetly locked up and it won't be coming out till I get to my local Gamesite.

Thanks! It's odd as my oldest friend is in the Met police and is licenced to carry a real firearm, I was talking to him last night and he was unsure if he could even legally buy one lol? I realize that the whole UKARA thing is to control people that have an RIF.

I can promise you that IF this does work apart from testing it in private at a local cadet firing range I will be keeping it descreetly locked up and it won't be coming out till I get to my local Gamesite.

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Just to add, the gun will be broken down as much as it can be. I'm sure customs know what to look for but there won't be any respective parts e.g. gearbox and lower receiver in 2 different boxes

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Thanks! It's odd as my oldest friend is in the Met police and is licenced to carry a real firearm, I was talking to him last night and he was unsure if he could even legally buy one lol? I realize that the whole UKARA thing is to control people that have an RIF.

I can promise you that IF this does work apart from testing it in private at a local cadet firing range I will be keeping it descreetly locked up and it won't be coming out till I get to my local Gamesite.

 

I'm sure it'll be fine mate, I reckon the police and customs and excise have far more important things to worry about that us lot running around inflicting bb related damage on each other in our free time! But slightly alarming that a Met Pol SFO doesn't know the score on airsofting and RIFs?! lol

I've been advised that if you are stopped by the police, for example on route to or from a site, then be open and honest and don't get flustered or angry. The chances are the officer won't have a clue what you're talking aout and will be inclined to check further, this may involve a trip to the station, but they're only doing their job and trying to protect the public. Sounds like pretty good advice to me.

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I'm sure it'll be fine mate, I reckon the police and customs and excise have far more important things to worry about that us lot running around inflicting bb related damage on each other in our free time! But slightly alarming that a Met Pol SFO doesn't know the score on airsofting and RIFs?! lol

I've been advised that if you are stopped by the police, for example on route to or from a site, then be open and honest and don't get flustered or angry. The chances are the officer won't have a clue what you're talking aout and will be inclined to check further, this may involve a trip to the station, but they're only doing their job and trying to protect the public. Sounds like pretty good advice to me.

Funnily enough he's trying to find out the exact wording now :)

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Exact wording you say? I have an app for that!:

 

Laws Regarding Buying and Selling Imitation Firearms Relevant to Airsoft

 

As the law currently stands (and it stands on the whim of the Home Secretary):

 

In relation to UNDER 18s:

 

- it is legal to own an IF or a RIF

- it is illegal to buy an IF or a RIF if you are under 18

- it is illegal to sell an IF or a RIF to an under 18

 

From 'VCRA 2006' Section 40 - http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/38/section/40

 

In relation to OVER 18s:

 

- it is legal to own an IF or a RIF

- it is legal to buy an IF or a RIF if you are over 18

- it is legal to sell an IF to an over 18

- it is illegal to sell a RIF to an over 18

- it is illegal to manufacture a RIF

- it is illegal to import a RIF

 

From 'VCRA 2006' Section 36 - http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/38/section/36

 

NOTE 1: if you wish to import a RIF, manufacture a RIF or sell a RIF to an over 18 you can avail yourself of a 'defence against prosecution' if you can show that you believed that you were intending to provide the RIF for "the acting out of military or law enforcement scenarios for the purposes of recreation" (an example of which is 'airsoft skirmishing') at a site with third party liability insurance. One way for a seller to do this is to establish that the buyer is registered with the UKARA database, though this is by no means a legal requirement or the only way for the seller to establish a defence for themselves.

 

From 'VCRA 2006 (Realistic Imitation Firearms) Regulations 2007' - http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2007/20072606.htm

 

With further notes specific to airsoft in 'VCRA 2006 (Commencement No 3) Order 2007' - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-violent-crime-reduction-act-2006-commencement-no-3-order-2007-firearms-measures

 

NOTE 2: any attempt to commit one of the offences listed as illegal above is also illegal in itself.

 

From 'Criminal Attempts Act 1981' Section 1 - http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1981/47/section/1

 

NOTE 3: the defence required to manufacture a RIF is not age specific, so an under 18 should be able to do so legally as long as they can prove their defence.

 

Acronym Glossary:

 

IF: Imitation Firearm (in relation to airsoft this is generally recognised as an airsoft gun which is painted over 50% in an 'unrealistic' colour - this is generally referred to as 'two tone')

 

RIF: Realistic Imitation Firearm (in relation to airsoft this is generally recognised as an airsoft gun which is 'realistically' coloured so as not be easily distinguishable from a real firearm)

 

VCRA: Violent Crime Reduction Act (the most recent law which directly affects the buying and selling of imitation firearms)

 

UKARA: United Kingdom Airsoft Retailers Association (a group created by leading UK airsoft retailers to easily establish a defence against prosecution for themselves when selling imitation firearms - they maintain a database of airsoft players for this purpose; to be entered on the database a player must play three games in over a two month period at a registered airsoft site)

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Exact wording you say? I have an app for that!:

 

Laws Regarding Buying and Selling Imitation Firearms Relevant to Airsoft

 

As the law currently stands (and it stands on the whim of the Home Secretary):

 

In relation to UNDER 18s:

 

- it is legal to own an IF or a RIF

- it is illegal to buy an IF or a RIF if you are under 18

- it is illegal to sell an IF or a RIF to an under 18

 

From 'VCRA 2006' Section 40 - http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/38/section/40

 

In relation to OVER 18s:

 

- it is legal to own an IF or a RIF

- it is legal to buy an IF or a RIF if you are over 18

- it is legal to sell an IF to an over 18

- it is illegal to sell a RIF to an over 18

- it is illegal to manufacture a RIF

- it is illegal to import a RIF

 

From 'VCRA 2006' Section 36 - http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/38/section/36

 

NOTE 1: if you wish to import a RIF, manufacture a RIF or sell a RIF to an over 18 you can avail yourself of a 'defence against prosecution' if you can show that you believed that you were intending to provide the RIF for "the acting out of military or law enforcement scenarios for the purposes of recreation" (an example of which is 'airsoft skirmishing') at a site with third party liability insurance. One way for a seller to do this is to establish that the buyer is registered with the UKARA database, though this is by no means a legal requirement or the only way for the seller to establish a defence for themselves.

 

From 'VCRA 2006 (Realistic Imitation Firearms) Regulations 2007' - http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2007/20072606.htm

 

With further notes specific to airsoft in 'VCRA 2006 (Commencement No 3) Order 2007' - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-violent-crime-reduction-act-2006-commencement-no-3-order-2007-firearms-measures

 

NOTE 2: any attempt to commit one of the offences listed as illegal above is also illegal in itself.

 

From 'Criminal Attempts Act 1981' Section 1 - http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1981/47/section/1

 

NOTE 3: the defence required to manufacture a RIF is not age specific, so an under 18 should be able to do so legally as long as they can prove their defence.

 

Acronym Glossary:

 

IF: Imitation Firearm (in relation to airsoft this is generally recognised as an airsoft gun which is painted over 50% in an 'unrealistic' colour - this is generally referred to as 'two tone')

 

RIF: Realistic Imitation Firearm (in relation to airsoft this is generally recognised as an airsoft gun which is 'realistically' coloured so as not be easily distinguishable from a real firearm)

 

VCRA: Violent Crime Reduction Act (the most recent law which directly affects the buying and selling of imitation firearms)

 

UKARA: United Kingdom Airsoft Retailers Association (a group created by leading UK airsoft retailers to easily establish a defence against prosecution for themselves when selling imitation firearms - they maintain a database of airsoft players for this purpose; to be entered on the database a player must play three games in over a two month period at a registered airsoft site)

Cheers longshot, excellent summary

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I never realised it was actually illegal to import, and that your defence literally is a defence against prosecution.

 

In fact I am ordering a gun today from a Polish company. Advice I have heard is out your UKARA number in the business line of the address so it shows up, and also you can write a message in an order commentary (ask them to write it on the box too)

 

So as I see it, just make sure UKARA # is clearly displayed (preferably more than one place maybe) and you should be fine. I know plenty of others have ordered from HK and Europe and one or two members here have bought from the USA, no problems at all.

The way they worded the VCRA is so that it is illegal to import, manufacture or sell RIF's. They then provide a number of ways to defend yourself from prosecution. The reason they have done it this way is to circumvent the whole innocent until proven guilty principle. So now when you get a gun from Taiwangun.com, you are actually breaking the law and have to prove you have a valid defence (from prosecution), rather than the normal way the law works, where the authorities would have to prove you are breaking the law before they can do anything. I wouldn't worry about it too much, it's just a clever legal trick to save taxpayers money by not having to prove that a gun is not intended for use in airsoft.

This is why UKARA is a defence (from prosecution) and not a Licence. If you had a licence for airsoft, the government would have to prove that you are not an airsofter to deny you it. This would be a bureaucratic nightmare that the taxpayer would have to fund.

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Just a quick follow up, The gun arrived in the last week, My only issue was the dumb ass customs tw*ts misread $20 as $200 and I had a bl**dy massive charge to pay. I've had this before and I know I can get my money back (After about 6 weeks).

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haha don't think they misread it. I reckon they just test who they are up against and if they get a few rich people who cba to argue and pay up then they are happy people. (who knows?)

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haha don't think they misread it. I reckon they just test who they are up against and if they get a few rich people who cba to argue and pay up then they are happy people. (who knows?)

 

This is the third time it's happened since Christmas and I recieve approx 500+ packages from the US each year, most stuff is left alone but when this kind of thing happens it's a pain in the ass to get compensation or refund! I have the neccesarry BOR form saved on my desktop. Dealing with them is like pulling teeth! I'll end up spending a good £20 on phone calls due to this latest cock up :(

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H ow much did they charge ? $40 would be the 20% VAT (on the wrong figure) plus V AT on the postage cost and maybe a handling fee by the postal service/courier company. Maybe they opened the package and decided that the real value exceeded $20.

Did the other four packages also get caught as you mentioned that the total cost was around 100 so maybe with shipping on top you have not done too badly overall.

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H ow much did they charge ? $40 would be the 20% VAT (on the wrong figure) plus V AT on the postage cost and maybe a handling fee by the postal service/courier company. Maybe they opened the package and decided that the real value exceeded $20.

Did the other four packages also get caught as you mentioned that the total cost was around 100 so maybe with shipping on top you have not done too badly overall.

No they didn't open the package. There were 3 packages in total and all 3 arrived without any question of what was inside. All 3 were declared at $20 but one was mistaken at $200. The cost of shipping on that one was $57 priority as it had the rail/inner barrel and paperwork. (Plus my friend also chucked in a couple of rare GI Joe comics). So the total was $257, 20% of that was $51.40 plus the £16 handling fee as it was rushed through as a priority item so the total I paid was £50.63 (I have no clue what exchange rate they used). So maybe not massive but £50 which was due to them not reading! The label clearly read $20 with no fading on any of the numbers. Like I said, i've had this kind of issue before and argued with them probably about 8 times in the last 3-4 years!

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