FAQ: Online shopping post-Brexit
April 13, 2021
Knowing our online consumer rights is more important than ever before. The CCPC has taken some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) from consumers who have contacted our helpline to help you understand your rights when shopping online post-Brexit.
Consumer rights post-Brexit
Are my consumer rights different if I buy online from a UK business now that the UK has left the EU?
Yes. As the UK has left the EU, we no longer share the same EU consumer protection laws we did before Brexit. UK traders are obliged to comply with UK consumer protection laws which are currently very similar to EU laws, although they could change in the future. UK traders who sell in to Ireland should also comply with EU consumer protection law. However, as a consequence of Brexit, there is no easy way to enforce your consumer rights if you are dealing with a business in the UK.
This means that if something goes wrong with something you buy online it may be more difficult to resolve issues if you bought from a UK business. If you buy from an EU-based business you have strong consumer protections which ensure that you can enforce your rights if something does go wrong. This is important to consider, especially if you are buying high-value items.
Additional taxes & charges
Why do I have to pay additional taxes and charges now for online orders from the UK?
This is because the UK is no longer part of the EU customs union. This means that the same charges that apply to online orders from other non-EU based businesses (such as China, the U.S. etc.) now also apply to goods you buy from the UK (excluding Northern Ireland).
What additional charges might I have to pay when ordering online from a UK business?
The three most common added charges are VAT, customs duty and customs processing fees. The cost of any additional charges will depend on the value, type and origin of goods you buy. For example:
Value Added Tax (VAT):
VAT is due on all shipments regardless of value and must be paid on imported items at the same rate that applies in Ireland for similar goods. VAT is due on all costs including shipping, delivery, insurance, handling and administration charges. Shipping companies may also charge you an administration fee in addition to Irish VAT. Prior to 1 July 2021, relief was applied to consignments valued below €22 however, this relief has now been withdrawn.
If you order online from a UK business and the total value of the goods is €150 or more, then customs duties can also apply. You have to pay customs duties if the goods were manufactured outside of the UK, however, customs charges generally do not apply to goods which are manufactured in the UK.
Customs processing fees:
If any additional taxes and charges apply to your online order from a UK business, you will be asked to pay them in one of two ways:
- Pre-pay via your online order: This is where any additional taxes and charges are added to the total cost of your online order at the point of checkout. Therefore, you will not have to pay any further charges before your goods are delivered to you. It may not always be immediately clear if the additional taxes and charges have been added or not. If you’re not sure, check the T&Cs on the business’s website, or contact them directly to confirm before you pay.
- Pay on delivery: Another option is where An Post or a delivery company collects the additional taxes and charges that apply to your goods directly from you. In this instance, you will most likely receive a notification from the delivery company letting you know how much you owe and how to pay. The amount owed will include an extra handling fee the delivery company charges for processing the taxes and charges. In most cases, payments must be made before the goods are delivered to you.
|Goods imported from UK businesses (excluding Northern Ireland)|
|Value of Goods:||Including:||Additional Taxes & Charges:|
|Goods under €150||Shipping, delivery, insurance, handling & admin. charges||
|Goods €150 or more||Shipping, delivery, insurance, handling & admin. charges||
(*excluding goods made in the UK)
|All alcohol, tobacco, perfumes and Eau de Toilettes||Shipping, delivery, insurance, handling & admin. charges||
Full information about the additional charges can be found at revenue.ie.
I bought goods online from a business based in Ireland. I received an unexpected notification from the delivery service that I had to pay additional taxes and charges before my order could be delivered. Is this allowed?
No, you should never get a surprise bill for taxes and charges when shopping with an Irish company. This is not permitted by any business selling goods into the EU. You must be informed of the total price of what you are buying before you pay, which includes any additional taxes and charges that may apply on delivery. If the additional charges cannot be calculated for you before you pay, then the business must clearly inform you that additional charges may be payable.
If you buy goods and, on delivery, you are told of additional charges and you are not happy to pay them, you can refuse to pay the charges and the goods will usually then be returned to the sender. Separate to this, under EU consumer protection law you can cancel your order at any stage before the goods are delivered to you. As soon as you decline to pay the additional charges, you should immediately contact (by email) the business that you bought from and advise them that you are cancelling your order and are seeking a full refund. More details about your right to cancel is available here or by calling our dedicated consumer helpline on 01 402 5555.
If I buy online from a UK business and am not made aware of additional charges before I pay, can I refuse to pay and request a refund?
Yes. UK businesses selling goods into the EU are obliged to inform you of the total price of what you’re buying before you pay. If they don’t, and you subsequently receive a bill for additional taxes and charges, you can refuse to pay. Your first step should be to contact the business directly to tell them that you were not informed about the additional charges; that you wish to cancel your order and require a refund.
However, it’s important to be aware that it may be difficult to enforce your rights against a UK business. This means that even though a business should tell you the taxes and charges in advance, you may have difficulty getting a refund if the business refuses or does not engage with you.
If this happens, you may consider contacting your financial provider about a chargeback on your credit or debit card. However, you will need to act fast, as the timeframe for chargebacks are typically 120 or 180 days after the transaction takes place.
You may also choose to contact the European Consumer Centre (ECC) which is continuing to provide advice and support to consumers trying to resolve issues with UK retailers. Visit ECCIreland.ie to find the latest information and updates.
Online shopping & website domains
Are websites ending in ‘.ie’ free from additional taxes and charges?
Not always. A website address is not always an indication of where a business is based. For example, a website which ends in ‘.ie’ doesn’t mean it’s based in Ireland.
The most important step to take before you buy online, is to check the business’s registered address in the T&Cs section of the website to find out where they are registered. This is an essential step, even if you have bought from a business previously, or if the site has a ‘.ie’ or ‘.eu’ domain. If you cannot find these details, ask or consider buying from an alternative website.
If the registered address is outside of the EU (which now includes the UK) then your consumer rights are different. If a business has more than one website with a number of different domains – e.g. ‘.de’ or ‘.co.uk’ be sure to check the registered address on each website before you buy.
I recently placed an online order with a UK business. It has been nearly a month and my goods still haven’t arrived. What are my rights?
If you have placed an online order with a UK business but your goods did not arrive, you should contact the business directly to arrange a new delivery date. If you cannot agree a new date, or the business does not deliver on the rescheduled date, you can tell the business that your goods still have not arrived, that you are cancelling your order and request a refund. Be sure to check the T&Cs for details of their refund policy, which you may be able to reference to support your refund request.
I have been waiting over three weeks for an online order to arrive from an EU-based business. Can I cancel and get a refund?
Yes. If you buy from an EU-based business you have strong rights under EU consumer protection law, and unless you agreed an alternative delivery date with the business, your items should be delivered within 30 days. If a business does not deliver it to you within 30 days, or the timeframe agreed, they should either:
- agree a different date, or
- allow you to cancel the contract and get a refund
Regardless of the delivery timeframes, you can cancel your order at any time before you have received the goods and up to 14 days after you have received the goods.
What options are now available to me in terms of resolving issues with a UK business?
Your first step should be to contact the UK business to explore what options are available to you and see if you can resolve the issues directly. Depending on the issue, you may wish to follow their internal complaints process to make a formal written complaint to them.
If you can’t resolve your issue directly with the business you can contact the European Consumer Centre (ECC) for information and support on disputes with UK businesses. The ECC may be able to work with the UK Consumer Centre to help you to resolve your dispute.
It’s important to be aware that the European Small Claim Courts procedure and the EU Online Dispute Resolution platform no longer accept complaints by consumers against businesses based in the UK. Therefore, if the business continues not to engage with you, your last port of call may be to seek independent legal advice on taking proceedings against a UK business through the Courts.