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FedEx: Huawei Phone Caused ‘Panic’

Huawei P30 Pro

UPDATE 6/25: FedEx spokeswoman Katie Wassmer Johnson told PCMag via email that “a well-intentioned new team member misinterpreted regulations and made a mistake in not accepting a package, which FedEx has acknowledged.”

Original Story:

Apparently Huawei phones are now so scary, they’re giving package handlers panic attacks.

Last week, PCMag’s UK writer Adam Smith tried to send me a Huawei P30 phone from London to New York, receiving it back with a shocking label blaming tensions between the US and Chinese governments for not permitting it to be sent.

Smith spoke to David Canavan, the Regional Chief Operating Officer at FedEx Express Europe. Canavan said that a FedEx employee saw the description of the phone on the forms we included, “had a panic attack of sorts” and sent it back to Parcelforce, a unit of the UK’s Royal Mail.

In a statement provided to PCMag on Saturday, FedEx said “the package in question was mistakenly returned to the shipper, and we apologize for this operational error.”

But now Huawei-related confusion appears to have infected the UK’s Royal Mail. Today, Parcelforce customer service provider Anthony Franey told Smith that the rejection was “not an error” and “a customs issue.” He was promptly contradicted by Gary Simpson, international managing director at Parcelforce, who said it was definitely an error and that company employees will be updated on the issue.

As execs from FedEx and UPS have both now confirmed, there is only a ban on US companies doing direct business with 69 specified foreign companies. There’s no ban on two private parties sending a Huawei phone through the mail, and there is no ban on a non-listed company sending Huawei products between its offices or to another non-listed company.

According to Parcelforce and FedEx tracking, our package spent about five hours in Indianapolis before being turned around and sent back to London.

It’s not clear who added the label pictured in my tweet above. The “IAG London East LD” on the label appears to refer to IAG Cargo, the cargo airline of British Airways and Iberia. The label may have been added by Parcelforce on its return to the UK, by someone at IAG Cargo, or by US Customs.

If anything, this shows how utterly confusing the US government’s current restrictions on Huawei have become. CNET has a full timeline of the “Huawei ban,” which isn’t a ban on importing Huawei devices—it’s a ban on doing business with those 69 companies, a ban on US companies exporting their technology to Huawei, and it also might be a ban on US networks installing or selling Huawei equipment. (Even that isn’t completely clear.) The export ban has also been stayed until August.

DHL agreed with UPS that there should be no problem sending Huawei phones into the US. “From what I’m aware, I don’t believe we would have any issues sending those particular devices into the USA if the item was sent through DHL Express,” a spokesperson told PCMag. UPS told us something similar on Friday. FedEx has also invited us to try to send the package again.

International Incident

This isn’t the first time recently that Huawei and FedEx have gotten into a spat. Last month, FedEx had to apologize for diverting four parcels containing company documents sent to Huawei offices overseas. The packages were instead rerouted by FedEx back to the US, according to The Street.

Over the weekend, the incident was covered by many international publications and, according to Reuters, became a trending topic on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter.

In a Tweet, Huawei slammed FedEx’s “vendetta.” Huawei also claimed that we did so as well. For what it’s worth, that’s false. We have not said that FedEx has a vendetta against Huawei, although I’ve been a little salty as FedEx’s statements have evolved over the past few days.

When the package was originally rejected, the FedExHelp Twitter account defended the rejection. I called FedEx HQ and they said they would get back to me shortly; it took them 23 hours, and the story going slightly viral on the Internet, for them to say the rejection was in error and apologize.

China’s state-run newspaper, Global Times, tweeted that FedEx may be added to a government ‘unreliable entities list’ because of the incident.

All of this comes in the context of ongoing tensions between the US and China. According to PCWorld, the US. government recently added five Chinese supercomputing organizations to its export ban (including an AMD joint venture), leading China’s vice commerce minister to demand that the US. cease “inappropriate measures” against its firms. The US. and China are currently engaged in tit-for-tat rounds of tariffs, with the leaders of the two countries expected to meet this weekend at an economic summit in Japan.

I just wanted to update our Huawei P30 Pro review. We’re currently considering whether to try to send the phone again, or just to get a device from a source in the US.

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