Delayed and cancelled orders, unexpected charges and confusion over consumer rights are just some of the problems being experienced by people, not just in Co Leitrim, but across the Republic of Ireland, as the reality of Brexit begins to hit home.
Although a deal was secured before the December 31 deadline last year, online shoppers and businesses trading with the UK are only now finding out the true cost of Britain leaving the EU.
The Leitrim Observer has received reports of online shoppers dealing with firms in the UK who have had their orders cancelled or delivery significantly delayed. There has also been complaints about customers facing unexpected additional VAT charges on delivery and these charges are often significantly higher than the actual value of the goods ordered.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is an independent statutory body that enforces competition and consumer protection law in Ireland. They were contacted by the Leitrim Observer for clarity on several complaints raised by our readers in the wake of Brexit.
Responding they acknowledged that, “As of 1 January, Brexit changes mean that when shopping online from UK-based businesses, it’s important for consumers to be aware that EU consumer rights will no longer automatically apply to online purchases from retailers in the UK.
"UK consumer protection law will still apply and consumers will remain protected by the terms and conditions (T&Cs) of their purchase, however, if issues arise in the future it may be more difficult to resolve a dispute with a retailer based in the UK.
"From 1 January, all online shopping orders received from the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) will be subject to Irish VAT and customs charges depending on the value and the type of goods purchased,” the CCPC noted.
When asked about the unexpected charges now being levied on delivery of goods to shoppers in Ireland, the CCPC said that goods bought from websites based outside of the EU, are subject to VAT if they cost more than €22 in total – i.e. including shipping, delivery, insurance and handling charges.
This means that “As of 1 January, all goods ordered from the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) will now also be subject to VAT and other charges,” said the CCPC.
“(Shoppers) 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 the purchases is €150 or more. However, customs charges do not apply to goods that are made in the UK.”
While Customs and VAT charges can be collected by the online retailer at the time of purchase, the CCPC said that the consumer may receive a bill from the delivery company before the goods are delivered to Ireland.
“If a delivery company has to collect and pay import charges to Revenue on behalf of a consumer, they will usually charge a processing or administrative fee for this service,” said the CCPC, prior to completing delivery of these goods. This money is being collected on behalf of Irish Revenue.
The CCPC acknowledge “These fees can add significantly to the overall cost, particularly for low value goods. When buying from non-EU websites consumers should always check the terms and conditions to see if VAT and other import taxes are included in the final price before making a purchase.”
They also warned that the domain name of businesses does not always indicate where the business is based and the .ie ending does not necessarily mean the business is based in Ireland and not subject to charges.
“An important first step before buying online is to check the retailer’s registered address in the T&Cs section of the website to confirm where they are based, as this will be one of the key factors that will determine the relevant consumer rights and protections that will apply to online purchases,” said the CCPC.
They also warned that, since Brexit, if a consumer purchases goods from a UK-based business, the protections, rights and business obligations under EU consumer protection law no longer automatically apply.
“The choice whether or not to buy from UK based businesses, remains up to the individual consumer. However, it is important for consumers to be aware of the changes to their consumer rights when shopping online from UK businesses, as well as additional taxes and charges which may now apply,” said the CCPC.
Contact the CCPC for more information on Brexit via www.ccpc.ie For further guidance on any additional charges that may apply as of 1 January, consumers are advised to visit www.revenue.ie.
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