My recent order of 5x cubecell dev boards from the Heltec web store had no duties or VAT applied (shipped to UK via YANWEN).
To hedge my bets due to potential Covid delays I also placed another order at a similar time from Heltec’s official Aliexpress store. That was a smaller order for one board, one module and did have a £12 charge to pay on arrival (£4 duty and an £8 Royal Mail handling charge).
Not sure what caused one order to incur charges and the other not …I also think it’s the first Aliexpress order I’ve placed which had additional charges due. The UK is fairly lax when it comes to applying customs charges on small-value items but that doesn’t explain why the smaller order had charges and not the larger.
Anyway, the charges aren’t anything within Heltec’s control so not really much they can do about it except maybe add a disclaimer to the store.
NB. Last I checked you could buy on amazon and get next day delivery if you want someone else to handle the import & VAT fees …will be more expensive though as amazon and the company doing the importing need to take their slice of the pie.
I bought my first couple of evaluation units from amazon and I think the dev-boards were £18 or something like that.