Appeals in Customs Matters

Definition/Scope

The right of appeal in Customs matters is not only a very important trade facilitation measure, but also a fundamental element of rule-of-law-based legal systems, according to which actions taken by the state and its executive bodies, e.g. Customs, have to be based on existing laws and regulations. Ideally, the right of appeal should relate to all border-related matters, not only Customs.
According to the Revised Kyoto Convention(RKC), "appeal in Customs matters" means the act by which a person who is directly affected by a decision or omission of the Customs and who considers himself to be aggrieved thereby seeks redress before a competent authority.

Problem statement

In countries where there is no possibility to review decisions, actions or omissions by Customs or individual Customs officers, the trader is confronted with an unbalanced amount of discretionary powers on the side of the Customs. This can lead, for example, to corrupt practices, delays in the release of the goods, or higher prices of the imported goods.

Implementation guidance

As a starting point, Customs should look into establishing an appeal system in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 10 of the General Annex to the Revised Kyoto Convention. Standard 10.2 of the RKC determines that any person directly affected by a decision or omission by the Customs shall have the right of appeal. The appeal has to be made in writing and Customs shall set time limits which allow for sufficient time to study the decision and to prepare the appeal. Customs shall give its ruling on the appeal in writing as soon as possible.

The appeal system as set by the RKC consists of four levels of escalation:

  1. right to request the reason for the decision/omission,
  2. right of an initial appeal to the Customs,
  3. right of further appeal to an authority independent of the Customs, and
  4. right of appeal to a judicial authority.

In all cases, Customs shall be required to provide the reasons for the decision, omission or dismissal in writing to ensure maximum transparency. The right of appeal in Customs matters will contribute to a predictable and transparent environment, if it is combined with efforts of Customs administrations to publish all relevant Customs laws and regulations, enhance integrity and regularly consult with the trade.

Additional information (references, examples, etc.)

In addition to the Guidelines to Chapter 10 of the Revised Kyoto Convention, the explanatory notes to ICC Customs Guideline # 48 provides useful background information, the UNCTAD Technical Notes on the Right of appeal against Customs and other agency rulings and decisions provide useful background information.
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