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Travellers and online shoppers

There are some changes that may affect travellers and online shoppers.

Online shoppers

If you buy goods online from overseas you are classified as an importer. However, if the goods are for your personal use and the value is less than $1,000, the changes do not affect you. However, you do need to be aware of other charges that apply


If you're travelling in and out of New Zealand there are a few things you need to know about. These are summarised below:

Change Description
From 1 October 2018
Electronic devices Customs officers must now satisfy legal thresholds before they can search the digital content of an electronic device (e-device) when processing passengers or crew, or inspecting baggage, mail and cargo. To make an initial search a Customs officer must have reasonable suspicion that the person in possession of the device is involved in relevant criminal offending. To make a more invasive search they must have a reasonable belief the device contains relevant evidential material.
Questioning The new legislation clarifies a Customs officer’s powers in relation to questioning people. The scope of what Customs officers can ask about has been extended in some cases.
Detaining people - use of force The new Act clarifies that a Customs officer can apply force if required when detaining a person. This is a technical change to ensure consistency within the Act.
Arresting suspected offenders Making an arrest without a warrant can now be done with no limitation on timeframe. This change ensures that arrest powers in the Customs and Excise Act 2018 are consistent with other legislation used by Customs.
Baggage search The Act clarifies that a Customs officer can examine any item in any arriving or departing passenger’s possession or under their control. This includes wallets, handbags, money belts and pocket contents.
Biometric identity check A person can be requested to undertake a biometric identity check if their identity is unable to be verified with reasonable certainty in a visual check.
Prohibiting use of devices Customs officers can prohibit the use of electronic communication devices in areas where people are arriving or departing New Zealand, rather than just in Customs-controlled areas or Customs places.
Controlled deliveries - non drugs Customs officers can now release the following types of goods to investigate further: objectionable publications, goods that are designed, manufactured or adapted with intent to facilitate crime, or involving dishonesty; large-scale tobacco smuggling.
Information management
Information sharing The new Act contains a range of enhanced provisions to better facilitate information sharing with external parties, while ensuring there is transparency and accountability regarding the collection, use and disclosure of information that Customs holds.
Biometric information The new Act contains various provisions governing Customs' ability to collect, use and disclose biometric information. These provisions are intended to provide greater clarity regarding Customs' use of biometric information to determine whether a person is of interest for law enforcement, national security, border protection or public health purposes.
From 1 April 2019
Infringement notice scheme A new infringement notice scheme will allow on-the-spot fines for several offences. The automatic fine for a person committing an offence will be $400. From 1 October 2018, Customs officers will be issuing warnings for these offences to help educate the public, however, all other sanctions will apply during this time. Find out more on the infringement notice scheme page.