Shoppers will be affected by Brexit
There has been much focus on how Brexit will affect trade with the UK, but what does it mean for Irish shoppers?
The answer to that depends on whether you are buying goods from Northern Ireland or are shopping online from British websites.
For people living close to the border, it can be quite normal for their nearest supermarket, hardware shop etc to be in the other jurisdiction. And generally speaking, this works both ways.
Then there are those who live a little further away but who pop across the border to stock up on items that are significantly cheaper, or on specialist products not available locally. The currency difference is nothing more than a minor inconvenience and those people in border counties tend to be well tuned in to the fluctuations in the Euro/Sterling exchange rates.
Apart from the currency difference, consumers on both sides of the border were protected by EU law in terms of consumer rights, quality control etc.
So what will change on January 1?
A spokesperson Competition and Consumer Protection Commission told the Donegal Post: “Under the NI Protocol, EU VAT legislation will continue to apply when it comes to goods traded in Northern Ireland. This means, amongst other things, that goods sold and transported from Northern Ireland to the EU (and vice-versa) will be treated the same as cross-border supplies of goods within the EU, including for VAT exemptions and deductions.
“For the consumer this means that when they purchase an item in Northern Ireland the VAT will be included in the sale price as it is today.”
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission advises people to check with its Northern Ireland equivalent, the Consumer Council. This is a non-departmental public body established through the General Consumer Council (Northern Ireland) Order 1984 to provide free, independent support and advice for all consumers and businesses in Northern Ireland. Further information on rights when shopping in Northern Ireland can be found on their website www.consumercouncil.co.uk
Changes to online shopping will be more notable.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission spokesperson said: “Although UK consumer protection law will remain in place, without a formal agreement between the UK and the EU, from 1 January 2021, EU consumer rights will no longer automatically apply when buying goods from a UK website.
“UK consumer protection law is very similar to EU consumer protection law so broadly speaking the standard of consumer protection that applies to UK businesses selling goods online is not going to change.
“However, while UK law will still apply, consumers in the Republic of Ireland who need assistance resolving issues with UK traders will no longer have the same support and dispute resolution mechanisms available to them as they do currently, e.g. the European Consumer Centre network, the European Small Claims Court procedure and the online EU dispute resolution service.
“This is important to be aware of, particularly for consumers who may be considering buying high value goods from UK based businesses and want to feel confident that they can access support if they have an aftersales issue.”
Goods that are bought online from Great Britain will be subject to VAT and other import charges.
Ray Ryan from Revenue’s Customs Division said there are three charging scenarios that online shoppers should consider when buying from a UK website from January 1.
“Firstly, online shoppers won’t face additional import charges when buying something for €22 including shipping, delivery, insurance and handling charges or less,” he said.
“Secondly however, if the value of the goods (including shipping, delivery, insurance and handling charges) is more than €22, VAT is payable.
“Thirdly consumers will have to pay Customs Duty and VAT if the value of the goods is more than €150 excluding shipping, delivery, insurance and handling charges.”
Mr Ryan also explained that there are two models in place that cover payment of customs duty and VAT.
“If the total price paid for the good or goods at time of purchase includes any Customs Duty and VAT due, no further import charges will arise on delivery,” he said.
“If this is not the case however, the carrier or postal service delivering goods bought online from outside the EU will complete the relevant custom formalities and the amount of VAT and duties will be calculated by Customs based on the information provided.
“The purchaser must pay these charges to the carrier or postal service before the goods are delivered.”
Head of Corporate and Stakeholder Communications with the CCPC, Doireann Sweeney, also explained that consumers’ existing EU rights would no longer automatically apply when buying from a UK website post Brexit.
Ms Sweeney said it was important to check where the trader was located.
“EU Consumer Protection law gives Irish consumers the right to change their mind after they receive their purchases and other strong protections when buying online,” she said.
“At this point in time, these rights are also reflected in UK law, however from January consumers may find it difficult to enforce these rights in disputes with UK retailers.”
Ms Sweeney said CCPC research pointed to a need for consumers to check out the terms and conditions on the website.
“Our research shows that while numbers shopping online from the UK are falling, only one in ten consumers plan to pay more attention to where a website is based after Brexit.”
The CCPC has prepared a checklist of things to note when shopping online:
- Check where the business is based:
If the business is based outside of the EU, you may consider finding an alternative EU store, to ensure you have stronger rights should an issue arise in the future.
- Buy from reputable retailers
When shopping online, it’s important to do some quick research, check reviews and social media pages.
- Check the cancellation & returns policy
When buying goods online from non-EU based businesses, read the T&Cs on their website and check if you can return or cancel your order, if you change your mind.
- Check for additional taxes or charges
If you are buying from a business outside of the EU, be sure to read the T&Cs on their website for details of any import taxes or additional charges that you may have to pay – for example, VAT or customs charges – on delivery.
- Pay by card
When shopping online, pay by card so that if you do run into problems you may have the option of a chargeback from your credit or debit card provider.
- Check that the website is secure
Before you put in your card details look out for an ‘s’ after ‘http’ at the beginning of the url and a padlock symbol in your browser’s task bar, which show the website is secure.
More information on post-Brexit rights for Irish consumer is available at https://www.ccpc.ie/consumers/shopping/brexit/