Buying online from the UK after Brexit

Introduction

The UK left the European Union on 31 January 2020. The transition period that was in place ended on 31 December 2020.

As a result of Brexit, there are changes to your consumer rights when buying online from businesses in the UK. This is the case even though the EU and UK have agreed a Trade and Cooperation Agreement (pdf).

From 1 January 2021, you should be aware of the following changes:

  • Additional import charges and Value Added Tax (VAT) apply when you buy from websites in the UK (depending on the value of the items and where the product is manufactured)
  • EU consumer protection legislation may no longer apply, instead your consumer rights will be set down in UK law
  • It may be more difficult to resolve a dispute with a UK business

Shopping online from a UK business

When you buy online, you have additional protections under EU law. These rights do not apply if you buy from a trader based outside the EU.

From 1 January 2021, you will still have consumer rights when buying online from UK retailers. However, these rights will be set down in UK law and not EU law. The legal guarantees you have under EU law may no longer apply.

You should follow this advice from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) before you buy from a UK retailer:

  1. Check the location of the business

    Find out where the business is located. Do not rely on the website name, for example .ie, co.uk or .eu or that prices are displayed in Euro.

    Check the terms and conditions (T&C’s), privacy policy or contact us pages of the website for either:

    • A physical address for the business
    • Information on where orders are shipped from (this should be in the ‘Deliveries’ section under the company’s T&C’s)
  2. Check the small print

    Read the terms and conditions on the website. Make sure you understand your rights around:

    • Returning the item if you change your mind (and whether the business covers the cost of returns)
    • Cancelling the order before it is dispatched

Before you buy, check if the business has included any Irish VAT or customs charges in the final price. If not, then you may have to cover the costs on delivery of your items – see ‘Taxes and other charges’.

You can use the CCPC's Brexit checklist (pdf) of things to note when shopping online.

Taxes and other charges

From 1 January 2021, you may have to pay taxes and duties such as customs duty and VAT when you buy from a UK business (except Northern Ireland). Whether or not you must pay additional charges depends on the value and origin of the products you bought - see table below.

The EU and UK have agreed a Trade and Cooperation Agreement (pdf) (the Brexit Trade Deal) that covers customs charges when buying online from the UK. However, the deal only applies to products coming into Ireland that are made in the UK. This means you may still have to pay customs duty on some items bought online in the UK and delivered to Ireland.

The Brexit Trade Deal does not impact on VAT. You may have to pay VAT on purchases from the UK from 1 January 2021.

Find out what VAT and import charges you will have to pay before ordering from a UK site. The table below is a guide, however if you are not sure check with the retailer before you buy.

Note: the value limits below are for the whole delivery, not just one item.

Value limits Taxes and charges due More information
Packages of any value You have to pay VAT at the same rate that applies if they were bought in Ireland (the standard rate of VAT for most items is currently 23%)

This is the case even if you are charged UK VAT on your purchase. You may be able to get a refund of the UK VAT from the supplier.

Value is based on customs value. This means the cost of the item(s) plus transport, insurance and handling charges.
Packages valued more than €150 You may also have to pay customs duty
  • You don’t have to pay customs duty on products that are made in the UK.
  • You may have to pay customs duty if the products are manufactured outside the UK. The rate of duty depends on the category of product.
Value is based on intrinsic value. This means the cost of the items alone, excluding transport, insurance and handling charges.

Revenue has a list of examples showing how to calculate what you owe on items you buy online from outside of the EU.

How you will pay VAT and customs charges

There are two ways VAT and customs charges are applied to eligible purchases from the UK:

  1. The business can register with Revenue and collect Irish VAT and any duties payable when you are making your purchase online. You should not have to pay any UK VAT on your purchase. You will not have to pay further Revenue charges on delivery.
  2. If the business is not registered with Revenue, then your package may be subject to VAT and other charges on arrival into Ireland from the UK. The postal service or courier company delivering the package will complete the relevant customs declarations, including where the product is manufactured. You will get a bill from the courier or postal company before your package is delivered. The company usually have an administration charge. Charges vary and there may be a minimum charge (between €10 to €15).

If you return the item

If you return an item, you may be able to get a refund of any Customs Duty and VAT you paid.

How you apply for a refund depends on how you paid the charges.

  1. You paid directly to the retailer at point of sale: you will usually apply for and receive these as part of your overall refund from the retailer.
  2. You paid to the postal service or courier company on delivery: you should apply to the postal service or courier company directly for a refund.

Remember to keep proof that you returned the item.

If things go wrong

When you buy online, you have additional protections under EU law if things go wrong. These rights do not apply if you buy from a trader based outside the EU.

From 1 January 2021, you should be especially careful when buying from a UK seller. It is very important to carefully check the terms and conditions on the seller’s website.

You should be aware that:

  • Your 14-day cancellation period under EU law may no longer apply if you try to cancel your order after 31 December 2020. However, UK law may set down similar rights. A business based in the UK may still accept a return under its general terms and conditions.
  • If you buy something from a business based in the UK before 31 December 2020 and the product becomes faulty after that date, or is not delivered, you may not be able to complain through ECC Ireland or use the European Small Claims procedure. You can still complain to the business directly.

Further information

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has detailed information about Brexit and your consumer rights.

Revenue has a list of examples showing how to calculate what you owe on items you buy online from outside of the EU.

An Post has more information on paying tax and charges after Brexit.

Page edited: 19 July 2021