Brexit and your consumer rights
As a result of Brexit, there are changes to your consumer rights when buying from retailers in the UK. And goods bought online coming 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.
As the UK is no longer a member of the EU, we no longer share the same EU consumer protection laws as 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 to customers in 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 when you buy goods 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.
If you are buying online there are some steps you can take to make sure there are no unwanted surprises:
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 you may have difficulty enforcing your consumer rights if something should go wrong.
2. Check the fine print
If you are 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.
- If you are 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.
You can use our Brexit checklist to help you when shopping online.
You may find it more difficult to resolve issues with businesses based in the UK as a result of Brexit. It is important to consider this before you buy online.
Resolving a dispute
If you buy something online from a website based in the UK and a problem arises, you should follow up with the business through their internal complaint process. If you can’t resolve your issue directly with the business you can contact the European Consumer Centre (ECC) through its contact form for information and support on disputes with UK businesses. The ECC can work with the UK Consumer Centre (previously the ECC UK) to help you to resolve your dispute, but only after you exhaust the trader’s complaints process first.
It’s important to be aware that EU consumer rights no longer automatically apply to purchases from businesses based in the UK and will depend on the circumstances.
As EU consumer rights no longer automatically apply, 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.
What are my rights if I placed an order before 31 December and it hasn’t arrived?
If you bought from a business registered in the EU (which includes the UK up until 31 December 2020) then the relevant consumer legislation in place at the time you made the purchase still applies.
This means, unless you have 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 the timeframe agreed, contact them and either:
- agree a different date, or
- cancel the contract and get a refund
If you are having difficulty getting a resolution or the business is refusing to provide a refund, we would suggest that you put your issue in writing to the business and failing that, request a chargeback from your bank on the basis that the goods were not delivered.
What are my rights if I bought a product from a UK business before 31 December and it has now developed a fault?
If you bought from a business registered within the EU (which includes the UK up until 31 December 2020) then the relevant consumer legislation in place at the time you bought the item still applies. In the case of something that is faulty, you have the right to a repair, replacement or a refund.
The first step to take is to contact the business as quickly as possible, set out when you bought the item, details of the fault and what remedy you would like. We provide template letters that may be of help here.
If the business refuses to fix or replace a product, request a refund, and if the business refuses a refund we would suggest that you contact the European Consumer Centre (ECC) through its contact form after you have exhausted the trader’s complaints process first.
Additional taxes and charges
Why do additional taxes and charges now apply to 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 orders from the UK (excluding Northern Ireland).
What additional charges might I have to pay when ordering online from a UK-based 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 the 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, make sure to 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 to the delivery company for processing the taxes and charges. In most cases, payments must be made before the goods are delivered to you.
Can a business registered in the EU apply other charges after I have paid for the goods?
When you buy online from a business that is registered in the EU, the Consumer Rights Directive (CRD) gives you strong protections on the right to clear and accurate information. This includes telling you what the total price of the goods or services is, including taxes and import duties and any other charges that may apply, before you buy. If a business cannot calculate these charges in advance they must still tell you that there may be additional costs.
If you buy something and, on delivery, you are told there are additional charges and you are not happy to pay them, you can choose to refuse to pay the charges and the item will then be returned to the sender. You also have a 14 day cancellation period if EU consumer law applies to the business you ordered from. If you decline to pay the additional charges, you should immediately contact the business (by email) to advise them that you are cancelling your order and are seeking a full refund.
What if I buy from a business based in the UK? Can they apply other charges after I have paid for the goods?
UK businesses selling goods into the EU are obliged to inform you of the total price before you pay.
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 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.
If you return the goods and the business fails to provide you with a refund, you may consider contacting your payment provider about a chargeback option 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 currently continuing to provide advice and support to consumers seeking to resolve issues with UK retailers. Visit www.ecc.ie to find the latest information and updates.
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 you made 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 you paid to them 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 changed 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 are 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 in the UK, many of the protections and rights you have under EU legislation may no longer apply, but may continue under UK law although it may be more difficult to exercise these rights.
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.
If you book a package holiday with a UK-based tour operator, 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?
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, the telecoms regulator, roaming arrangements for EU citizens visiting the UK will depend on the policies of individual operators. Many mobile operators in Ireland have indicated that there will be no return to roaming charges for customers travelling to the UK after Brexit however it is advisable to check with your provider before travelling.
Mobile customers continue to have legal protections around roaming, including:
- being informed of any roaming charges they could incur if and when they use mobile devices outside of the EU (including in the UK)
- being alerted when charges are incurred or the data roaming cap (€61.50 including VAT) is reached
- being informed about how to avoid inadvertent roaming
- being notified if their contractual terms are changed
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
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.
Last updated on 27 July 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)