The case, General Merchandise and Apparel Group and CEO of
Customs ("GMA Case"), concerned a review by the AAT of
the decision by the Australian Customs and Border Protection
Service ("Customs") to revoke certain tariff concession
orders ("TCOs") that had allowed duty free entry of
certain bed linen. Following Customs' decision to revoke the
TCO, there was an application by an importer of bed linen to
reinstate the TCOs. The AAT has now held that Customs' decision
to revoke the TCOs was incorrect and the TCOs should be
retrospectively reinstated. This will allow importers who had
previously paid customs duty on the affected imported bed linen to
claim a refund of that duty for the period while the TCO's had
been incorrectly revoked. However, due to subsequent legislative
amendment the refunds will only be available in respect of bed
linen imported prior to 4 October 2007.
The GMA Case has a long history going back to 2006 when a bed
linen importer applied for the TCOs alleging that there were no
local manufacturers of such bed linen. Customs made the TCOs and
subsequently 2 Australian companies made applications for the
revocation of the TCOs on the basis that they were local
manufacturers of "substitutable" bed linen. Customs
agreed to revoke the TCOs and General Merchandise and Apparel Group
applied to the AAT for a review of that decision. The local
manufacturers were originally involved in the AAT action as
"parties joined" to support Customs' decision. After
a lengthy pre-trial process, the local manufacturers ultimately
elected not to proceed to assist Customs in the AAT proceedings by
way of arguments or further evidence. The hearing was held in May
While the GMA Case is important for importers of relevant bed
linen, it will also have ramifications for all TCO applicants and
those opposing TCOs as important statements were made by the AAT on
decisions to revoke TCOs and the role of parties joined in TCO
Hunt & Hunt acted for GMA and will be holding sessions on
the implications of the GMA Case.
Customs has 28 days to lodge an appeal to the Federal Court.
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