So, I (USA) recently made an order at an online store (Japan). I paid with debit. My order was taking a while to ship but I thought nothing of it because I'm patient and shopping online is just like that sometimes. Days down the line, my card is charged for about 50 dollars more than the subtotal given when I placed the order.

I checked my email to see if there was an issue, and indeed they'd contacted me and I simply didn't see it as it was sorted into the sea of other promotional shopping junk mail.

Apparently, the shipment weighed more than they thought it would and the shipping cost more than doubled. They said if I didn't respond in a week to object to the new total, the shipment would be sent anyways and my card charged for the new total regardless of whether I approved or not, which I guess is exactly what they did.

Is this allowed?

  • In principle, you could receive goods at the original cost, receive goods at the new, higher cost, or not receive goods. The sender would lose money in the first case, so it's not going to happen. Do you want these goods?
    – gnasher729
    Oct 12, 2022 at 9:24
  • @gnasher729 usually, option a does not exist and is a reason for the sender to rescind the contract via the ToS^^
    – Trish
    Oct 12, 2022 at 15:49

2 Answers 2


it depends.

To such contracts, a company's standard Terms of Service (ToS) apply, and by contracting with them, you agreed that those are part of the contract. Your initial contract did contain a clause that you pay for shipping, and your original total came out to X USD.

The Shipping turned out to be much more costly, possibly because Japan Post currently does only very limited shipping globally and other global carriers like UPS are more expensive.

Now, you have to read the ToS carefully, as it might contain a clause to adjust shipping prices. Most likely their ToS contains a clause to the effect that shipping prices are your responsibility in any case and that errors in shipping fees are to be paid by you. Then, you said they sent you an information mail that contained what could be seen as a re-negotiation of the contract, but it might also just be a notion about the adjusted shipping fees as required in the initial contract. Such clauses are generally legal.

In either way, shipping and transport costs are usually not costs that the company can choose on its own, they are dictated on them by the transportation company, which can pretty much dictate prices in any way they want. Especially international shipping can be extremely volatile: Sending a normal letter to the US from Germany incurs lower fees than some large national letters. However, shipping fees from the US to Europe start at about 18 USD for uninsured parcels and very quickly go up to more than 100 USD for the same shipped item but a different class of parcel. If the carrier decides your shipment is in a different class of parcel than anticipated, then the shipping company can do nothing but ship in that category.

Did they adjust the bill on the box?

While the actual shipping fees are now higher, it is more likely they did not adjust the bill on the box, if the fee adjustment was due to the carrier's insistence in the outgoing station. In that case: Lucky you, because the customs office uses the declaration on the box as the basis for customs and import fees - for which you are solely responsible. These fees are based on the value of the contents plus the shipping fee! Yes, you pay customs and taxes on shipping internationally. In case they did adjust the declaration bill as is proper, you'll also get charged more for importing, depending on the customs and fee schedule.


There are two relevant things that are potentially allowed / disallowed. The first relates to the contract of sale, in particular changing the shipping charge after contract-acceptance. If the contract say (in essence) that the shipping price is fixed (the unlikely situation), they cannot unilaterally change the contract by raising the price. It is more likely that the contract indicates that you will pay whatever shipping charges there are: and I would look for a provision regarding notifying you about increased shipping costs. In terms of contract law issues, this is probably allowed, because fixed international shipping rates are a rare thing.

The other parameter of allowedness is charging your debit card without an affirmative say-so from you. That is mainly between you and your bank, with some regulation and consumer protection arising from the Electronic Funds Transfer Act. Here is the government's summary of those regulations, the authorizing statute being here. which are different from rules related to credit card charges. There are some limits on consumer liability for "unauthorized electronic fund transfers", so that you are not wholly liable for fraudulent debit card charges, but you have to notify the band, etc. However, you are fully liable for authorized electronic fund transfers: therefore, it's important to know what an unauthorized electronic fund transfer is. That term is defined under the law as

an electronic fund transfer from a consumer’s account initiated by a person other than the consumer without actual authority to initiate such transfer and from which the consumer receives no benefit, but the term does not include any electronic fund transfer (A) initiated by a person other than the consumer who was furnished with the card, code, or other means of access to such consumer’s account by such consumer, unless the consumer has notified the financial institution involved that transfers by such other person are no longer authorized, (B) initiated with fraudulent intent by the consumer or any person acting in concert with the consumer, or (C) which constitutes an error committed by a financial institution.

In engaging in this transaction, you somehow indicated electronically to the vendors that you authorize them to use your debit card for this transaction. Clearly, no part of this transaction is "without actual authority to initiate such transfer and from which the consumer receives no benefit" (you did authorize and you do receive a benefit). The transfer was, per (A), "initiated by a person other than the consumer who was furnished with the card... by such consumer, unless the consumer has notified the financial institution involved that transfers by such other person are no longer authorized".

It is possible but somewhat unlikely that your financial institution requires a separate act of you entering the card information for every card-not-present transfer associated with a transaction. The law mandates that the institute tell you their rules, which are multiple pages printed in 8 pt. type.

  • one of the few non-renegotiable shipping fees: "Free shipping". That can't be raised, the shipping is included in the item price.
    – Trish
    Oct 12, 2022 at 16:21

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