Brexit and your consumer rights
As a result of Brexit, there are changes to your consumer rights when buying from retailers in the UK. The UK is no longer part of the EU and the transition period that was in place has now ended. It is important to be aware that even though the EU and UK agreed a trade deal, there are still changes to your consumer rights which came into effect on 1 January 2021. Online shopping packages received from the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) are now subject to Value Added Tax (VAT) and other charges.
Some aspects of this information may change in the future as a result of new agreements with the UK. This website will be updated as new information is available.
When you shop online from a business in the EU, you have strong consumer rights under EU consumer protection legislation, including the Consumer Rights Directive (CRD). The CRD includes the right, in most cases, to cancel your order within 14 days of delivery.
From 1 January, you no longer automatically have these rights when you buy online from a business based in the UK. When shopping online there are some steps you should take:
1. Check the location
If the business is in an EU member state, including the Republic of Ireland, then your consumer rights will not change because of Brexit. If the business is outside the EU, including the UK, then the rights you have under the Consumer Rights Directive do not automatically apply.
2. Check the fine print
Second, when buying from a website outside the EU, it is very important to read the terms and conditions on the website and if necessary, ask the following questions:
- Can you return the item if you change your mind?
- Can you cancel an order before it is dispatched?
- Do you have the right to return the item and if you can return an item, who pays for the cost of returning it – you or the business?
- Has the retailer included any Irish VAT or customs duties in the final price? If not, then you may face a bill when your goods are delivered.
- When buying from the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) you may be liable for customs duties if the goods you are buying are not made in the UK.
After Brexit, you will still have consumer rights when buying from UK retailers, however these rights will generally be set down in UK law rather than EU law. In some cases, where a retailer directs their website to EU consumers, then EU law may still apply. In these circumstances, it may be more difficult to resolve a dispute with a UK trader following Brexit. It is important to be aware of this, particularly if buying high value goods.
You can use our Brexit checklist to help you when shopping online.
If something goes wrong with an item you bought online
If you have a complaint against a business in another EU member state, and you cannot resolve it, you can use the European Consumer Centre (ECC) network by contacting ECC Ireland. Once you contact ECC Ireland, it can raise your issue with the ECC in the country where the business is based. The ECC in the country where the business is based can then raise the issue with the business on your behalf, if necessary.
In addition to the ECC network, consumers can avail of an EU-backed system of alternative dispute resolution for participating traders and also have access to the European Small Claims procedure. These procedures are available only where a consumer and a business are both in an EU Member State. While the ECC is still in place in the UK currently, there is considerable uncertainty as to whether the ECC network or the European Small Claims procedure will be available in cases where the business is in the UK, after the transition period.
In cases where the product is not delivered, you can make a complaint to the business. If the business is unable to resolve your complaint, you could contact your credit or debit card provider and request a chargeback on the basis that the goods were not delivered. Consumers in Ireland can take individual action through the Irish Courts if they have bought online from UK traders who do business in the EU. However, having a judgement enforced in the UK might be difficult in practice because the legal situation at this time is very unclear.
What if I buy something from a UK-based business before the transition period ends? What rights will I have after that?
- Your 14-day cancellation period under the Consumer Rights Directive may no longer be valid if you try to cancel your order after 31 December. However, UK law may replicate certain rights, such as the 14-day cancellation period. Furthermore, a business based in the UK may still be willing to accept a return in line with their terms and conditions.
- If you buy something from a UK-based business before 31 December and the product develops a fault after that date, or if it is not delivered, you may not have access to redress using the European Consumer Centre (ECC) or the European Small Claims procedure.
- However, you should still make a complaint to the business.
What about taxes and other charges
From 1 January, all online shopping packages received from the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) will be subject to Irish VAT and customs charges depending on the value and the type of items purchased.
You may have to pay Value Added Tax (VAT) if the value of the items (including shipping costs) is €22 or more. VAT must be paid on imported items at the same rate that applies in Ireland for similar goods.
You may also have to pay import charges such as customs or excise duties on some items from the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) when the total value of your purchases is €150 or more.
The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (the Brexit Trade Deal) means that customs charges do not apply to goods that are made in the UK. You should be aware that if the goods you are buying were manufactured outside of the UK then you may be liable for customs duty and other charges. In addition, VAT can apply to purchases from the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) regardless of where the product was manufactured.
Before ordering from outside the EU, find out what VAT and import charges you may have to pay. More information about the additional charges you may have to pay can be found on the Revenue website.
When shopping online from a UK website (excluding Northern Irish websites), there are two ways to pay Irish VAT and customs charges on eligible purchases:
- The online retailer can collect Irish VAT and any duties payable when you are making your purchase. To do this, the online retailer must be registered with Revenue. You should not have to pay any UK VAT on your purchase.
- If the online retailer does not collect any Irish VAT or customs duties due when you are making your purchase, then your package may be subject to VAT and other charges on arrival into Ireland. In this case you will receive a bill from the courier or postal company before your package is delivered.
No additional taxes and charges will apply to packages arriving to Ireland from Great Britain which were dispatched before 11pm on 31 December 2020.
If you buy goods from a UK website (excluding Northern Irish websites) before 11pm on 31 December and the item is not dispatched by the retailer until 2021, then the package will be subject to VAT and any other applicable charges on entry in to Ireland.
What happens to taxes and charges I’ve paid if I return the item?
If you buy from outside the EU and you return an item, you may be able to claim a refund of any Customs Duty and Value Added Tax (VAT) paid. You must retain proof that you have returned the item.
If you paid these charges directly to the online retailer when making your purchase then you will usually apply for and receive these as part of your overall refund.
If you paid VAT and/or Customs Duty charges to a postal or courier company then you may need to apply to them directly for a refund of taxes paid. You are unlikely to be able to seek a refund of any administrative fees charged for processing your VAT and/or Customs Duty payment.
Buying from UK retailers based in Ireland
Many retailers in Ireland are UK chains with a significant retail presence here. You might wonder whether your consumer rights will change as a result of Brexit if a shop in Ireland is owned or run by a UK chain. The answer is no – all your consumer rights will be exactly the same when you buy from a shop in Ireland. Get more information about buying goods and faulty goods.
EU legislation gives you specific rights and entitlements when you book a package holiday from an operator in an EU member state. A tour operator might be located in an EU member state, including Ireland, or outside the EU, including the UK. If you buy a package holiday from an operator that is based outside Ireland, ask them or your travel agent what arrangements are in place if the operator goes out of business.
If your tour operator is based outside the EU, many of the protections and rights you have under EU legislation may no longer apply, but may continue under UK law. If you book a package holiday with a UK-based tour operator that is due to take place after the transition period, ask them what arrangements they have in place in the following circumstances:
- If they go out of business, are they bonded and will that bonding pay you compensation or arrange to get you home?
- If your holiday is cancelled, what will they offer you? A refund, or an alternative holiday?
- If your holiday is altered, for example, if the accommodation you booked is no longer available, what will they offer you?
The European Commission has confirmed that if you buy a package holiday from a UK-based organiser, your current consumer rights will still apply if the travel agency marketed the package holiday in Ireland. If the travel agency has not marketed the package holiday in Ireland, your rights as a consumer will depend on UK law following the transition period.
Roaming in the UK
Roaming charges within the EU were abolished in 2017. This means you can ‘roam like at home’ and pay the same for calls and texts as you would at home. If your bundle includes unlimited calls and texts, then you also have unlimited calls and texts in the EU. According to Comreg, roaming arrangements for EU citizens visiting the UK will depend on the relationship agreed between the UK and the EU. However, many mobile operators in Ireland have indicated that there will be no return to roaming charges for customers travelling to the UK after Brexit.
What about other rights?
As a citizen of the EU, there are many areas where your rights come from EU legislation. The Government departments and organisations listed below may be able to help you with queries you have on specific issues.
|Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR)||The Commission for Aviation Regulation monitors and regulates the laws covering air passengers’ rights. Its consumer website gives comprehensive information on your rights and entitlements in the event that your air travel plans are disrupted.|
|Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg)||ComReg is the statutory body responsible for the regulation of the electronic communications sector (telecommunications, radio communications, broadcasting transmission and premium rate services) and the postal sector.|
|National Transport Authority (NTA)||The National Transport Authority is the enforcement body in Ireland for consumer rights when travelling by sea and inland waterway. Their consumer website is Transport for Ireland.|
|Road Safety Authority (RSA)||Information on Brexit and driving licences.|
|Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU)||CRU is Ireland’s independent energy & water regulator with a range of economic, customer care and safety functions.|
|Central Bank of Ireland||Information on Brexit and financial services.|
|Data Protection Commission||The Data Protection Commission (DPC) is the national independent authority responsible for upholding the fundamental right of individuals in the EU to have their personal data protected.|
|Citizens Information||The Citizens Information Board is a statutory body that provides information, advice and advocacy on a broad range of public and social services.|
|An Post||An Post has information about how Brexit may impact on postal services, including deliveries from the UK and returning goods, as well as potential customs charges.|
|Revenue||Information on duty free and taxes and charges when shopping outside the EU.|
|Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade||Information on social welfare, health, living and studying in the UK after Brexit.|
Information for business owners
Last updated on 14 January 2021
- Brexit and your consumer rights
- Buying goods
- Faulty goods
- Companies going out of business
- Buying online
- Gift vouchers
- Misleading advertising
- Disputed card transactions (chargeback)