CBP’s E-Commerce Pilot Explained

What is e-Commerce?

The exponential growth of e-commerce, or “high-volume, low-value shipments purchased via electronic means,” has engendered a shift from large container shipments to a high volume of smaller, low-value packages. As the number of small shipments grows increasingly high, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) faces new inspection challenges. Additionally, many new e-commerce sellers are relatively unfamiliar with U.S. customs laws and regulations, which can lead to the shipment of non-compliant goods. Finally, other enforcement issues arise when criminal organizations perceive a lower risk of interdiction when sending illicit goods through small packages.

CBP’s E-Commerce Strategy recognized the increasing global importance of e-commerce and emphasized the importance of addressing e-commerce challenges. The strategy stresses the need for CBP to “better understand, anticipate, and actively address emerging risks and facilitation opportunities within the dynamic, e-commerce and small parcel shipments driven, supply chain.”

What is the Section 321 Data Pilot?

The Section 321 Data Pilot represents a critical step toward ensuring that CBP is equipped to adequately respond to the growth of e-commerce. The pilot, which began on August 22, 2019, aims to test the feasibility of collecting additional advance information for Section 321 shipments. Section 321 allows CBP to offer an administrative exemption called the de minimis entry for “merchandise other than bona fide gifts and certain personal and household goods imported by one person on one day having an aggregate fair retail value in the country of shipment of not more than $800.” Section 321 shipments can be admitted free from duty and tax shipments.

CBP collects advance data on cargo that crosses the border in order to target high-risk shipments arriving in the U.S. However, CBP has faced difficulties in collecting an adequate amount of advance data to determine the security risk of an approximate daily volume of 1.8 million Section 321 shipments. It can often be challenging to identify the seller or final recipient in e-commerce transactions, because other entities can act as the seller or conceal the final recipient of the shipped merchandise.

The Section 321 Data Pilot will allow CBP to determine whether the collection of advance data would be feasible as well as improve efficient targeted screening for Section 321 shipments arriving by air, truck, and rail. The pilot will require participants to provide identifying information for the shipper, the ultimate recipient, and specifications about the shipped product. CBP will also assess the feasibility of comparing data elements received from multiple entities throughout the shipment process.

On January 8, 2020, CBP announced the selection of nine participants in the Section 321 Data Pilot. The participants include: Amazon, eBay, Zulily, FedEx, DHL, UPS, PreClear, XB Fulfillment, and BoxC Logistics. These nine participants will share required data with CBP and can share additional optional information. This will help CBP determine which data are the most important indicators for compliance with laws and regulations.

In December 2019, CBP expanded the pilot to include shipments arriving by ocean and mail and extended its duration to August 2021. At the conclusion of the pilot, CBP will evaluate the results to determine the effectiveness of advance data collection in risk-based assessment for 321 shipments.

How to get involved

CBP released an instructional graphic to ensure sellers have all necessary information to comply with basic U.S. import requirements. For more information about CBP’s e-commerce programs, please visit https://www.cbp.gov/trade/basic-import-export/e-commerce or contact the E-Commerce Branch at ecommerce@cbp.dhs.gov.

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