Buying outside the EU
You have strong consumer rights when you buy from businesses based in the EU. However, when buying from a business outside the EU (UK, US, China etc.) you do not have the same rights. You may also have to pay extra taxes and charges.
For example, EU based websites have a cooling off period of 14 days during which you can return an item and receive a full refund. This may not apply to websites outside the EU.
How to check where a business is based
To find out where the business is located, you cannot rely on the name of the website or prices displayed in Euro. For example, a website address which ends in .ie or .co.uk does not always mean the business is located in Ireland or the UK.
Checking a business’s policies
You may not have the same rights of redress and return if you buy outside the EU. Each business will set their own policies on these. You should always read the terms and conditions to check their policies. You should find out if you:
- have the right to return an item
- need to pay postage for returning items
- can cancel an order before it is dispatched
- can return an item if you change your mind
- will pay any Irish VAT and/or customs duties in the final price. If not, you may face a bill from Revenue when your goods are delivered to you
You should follow up with the business through their internal complaints process if something goes wrong. If the business refuses to engage with you, you may have to get independent legal advice on your options.
In the case of the UK, the European Consumer Agency (ECC) can work with the UK Consumer Centre to help resolve your dispute. To do this, you need to have used the business’s own complaints process first.
Taxes and Charges
When you buy in the EU, taxes and charges should already be included. This may not be the case when you buy outside the EU, and taxes and charges may be added when items are imported. The cost of any additional charges will depend on the value, type and origin of the goods you buy.
The three most common extra charges are:
Value Added Tax (VAT)
Customs processing fees
Returning an item
If you are returning an item you bought, you may be able to claim a refund of VAT and any customs duty. Be sure to keep 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/customs duty to a postal or courier company then you may need to apply to them directly for a refund of taxes paid. You’re unlikely to get a refund of any administrative fees you paid to them for processing your VAT/customs duty payment.
Visit Revenue to get more information on claiming a refund of VAT and customs duty.
The European Commission also provides information on the payment of taxes and charges outside the EU.
Last updated on 20 April 2023