As a result of the UK leaving the EU in recent weeks, online shopping from the UK has changed a lot for consumers in Ireland and it is more important than ever for online shoppers to know where they are buying from.
But how do you know where a business is based, what consumer rights apply and whether you have to pay additional taxes and charge?
The Competition & Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has a list of top tips that consumers need to know before buying online:
1: A '.ie' domain is not a guarantee of an Irish-based business
The most important step to now take, is to check where a business is based before you make a purchase. Check the business’s registered address in the terms and conditions (T&Cs) section of the website to find out where they are registered. This is an essential step, even if you have bought from a business previously, or if the site has a ‘.ie’ or ’.eu’ domain, as this is not always a sign of where a business is registered or based. If you cannot find these details, consider buying from an alternative website.
If the registered address is within an EU, they are not only required to provide their trading name and address but the business must provide you with other important consumer protections. If the registered address is outside of the EU, which now includes the UK, then your consumer rights may be different. If a business has more than one website with a number of different domains – e.g. ‘.de’ or ‘.co.uk’ be sure to check the registered address on each website before you buy from it.
2: You may have to pay additional taxes and charges
From 1 January, all online shopping orders received from the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) are subject to Irish VAT and customs charges, depending on the value and the type of items purchased (see below). Before ordering from outside the EU, check the T&Cs to find out what VAT and import charges you may have to pay. Full information about the additional charges can be found at revenue.ie
3: If you are not happy to pay additional charges - exercise your right to a refund
If you are buying from an EU website, then you should be told about any additional costs before you make a purchase. If you make a purchase and, upon delivery, you are advised of additional charges and you are not happy to pay them, you can choose to refuse to pay the charges and the purchase will then be returned to the sender.
Separate to this, under EU consumer protection law you have a 14 day cancellation period, so we would suggest that, as soon as you decline to pay the additional charges, you should immediately contact the business (by email) that you bought from and advise them that you are cancelling your order and are seeking a full refund.
More details about your right to cancel are available at ccpc.ie or by calling their dedicated consumer helpline on 01 402 5555.
4: Always check the T&Cs for a returns policy before you buy from a non-EU website
If you are buying from a non-EU website, including a UK website, you may not automatically have the right to return a purchase, or the timeframes for returns may have changed. So, before you buy, always check T&Cs to find out what it says about returns such as;
· Can you return an item if you change your mind and within what timeframe?
· Can you cancel an order before it is sent to you?
· Who pays for the cost of returning it – you, or the business?
Also check what the T&Cs say about faulty products and if there are any limits to the business’s returns or faulty goods policy. If so, you may consider buying from an EU-based website to ensure you have strong rights.
5: EU businesses are responsible for delivery delay follow-ups
In recent weeks there have been reported delays in deliveries, however, if you buy from an EU website (unless you have agreed an alternative delivery date with the business) your purchases should be delivered within 30 days. If a business does not deliver it to you within the timeframe agreed they should either:
1. Agree a different date, or
2. cancel the contract and get a refund
A business is responsible for a purchase until it is delivered to you, unless you organised your own delivery. This means that if a business organises a courier to deliver a purchase to you, they must ensure its delivery and should the item not be delivered they should either organise a replacement or a refund.
6: If you buy from an EU website you have strong protections if something goes wrong
If you buy from an EU-based business you have strong consumer protections, which ensures that you have enough, clear information and are not mislead before you make a purchase. Importantly, it ensures that you have rights if something does go wrong – particularly the right to a refund. Buying from a non-EU website means that these rights do not automatically apply and therefore, if something does go wrong it may be more difficult to get the issue resolved.
This is particularly important to consider if you are buying high-value items, in case any issue arises down the line.