The Ministry of Economy, Industry and Commerce of Costa Rica (MEIC), the Foreign Trade Promoter (Procomer), among others, are calling on citizens to be very well informed before making online purchases for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and end-of-year gifts.

Online purchases and imports can be overwhelming for first time online buyers

In December especially, many have more money due to the ‘Aguinaldo’ – the year-end bonus equal to the average of one month’s salary paid to all public and private sector salaried employees – and with facility now can purchase online items like beauty products, technology, and even medicines.

Authorities in Costa Rica ask the population to be extremely careful before hitting the ‘buy now’ button, knowing well the rules and regulations of import and tax obligations.

Among other concerns is the quality of the product, return policy and costs if the item is not to your liking, defective or damage.

Is it really a deal really deal if the product is not what you expected or never gets to your hands?

For example, there are the requirements of law that could mean your purchase is seized by the customs authorities or there is an onorous import tax.

For example, in general, beauty products may require a health certificate.  Then there is the freight to get the product to Costa Rica. Amazon, for example, may offer free shipping on your purchase in the US and Canada, but to get it to Costa Rica your local provider like Aeropost or Jetbox will add I went to my freight, fuel and warranty charges.

Then there is the import (customs) tax and 13% sales tax applicable to many purchases.

In the end, the deal may not end up being a deal after all.

Costa Rican customs procedures are complex and bureaucratic. Recent improvements, such as electronic “one-stop” import and export windows known as “Ventanilla Única de Comercio Exterior (VUCE)” – Foreign Trade Single Window – have significantly reduced the time required for customs processing.