As of 1 January 2021, the EU and the UK form two separate markets and distinct regulatory and legal spaces [1] albeit with preferential arrangements in areas such as trade in goods and in services on-line and off that will ensure that rights of consumers are respected. [2] The European Consumer Centre Ireland continues to assist Irish consumers with complaints against UK traders after 1 January 2021, in cooperation with the Consumer Centre UK.

In the following we look at the new regulatory changes for EU-UK trade, including consumer transactions, as well as the governing consumer rights and available redress options for Irish consumers who shop with UK traders in person and online going forward.

SHOPPING FOR GOODS AND SERVICES

With respect to EU-UK trade, as a general rule, no tariffs apply to goods exported out of the UK, certified to be of UK origin, and accompanied by a customs declaration or goods exported to the UK from the EU which are certified to be of EU origin. The new rules apply provisionally until 28 February 2021 and will change further from 1 July 2021. [3] Read the Irish Government’s Brexit guidance for consumers here.

From 1 January 2021, Irish consumers who shop directly from the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) and your order is shipped from the UK, additional costs will apply. [4] EU rules will continue to apply to cross-border transactions that started before 1 January 2021.

From 1 January 2021, Irish consumers who shop directly on UK websites/brands that have a registered base in Ireland, and you buy from that Irish company or your purchase is delivered from a base elsewhere in the European Union, no additional costs will apply to purchases.

CONSUMER RIGHTS

When buying goods and services anywhere in the European Union, Irish consumers have clear rights when it comes to: contract information, pricing and paymentsVAT – Value Added Tax, shipping and delivery, guarantees and returns. These consumers rights will remain unchanged when a purchase is made in/from a UK shop/brand which has a registered presence in Ireland.

The BREXIT deal commits the UK and the EU to maintaining existing EU-type consumer protections on a mutual basis. As a general rule, EU consumer rules cover goods and services that have been bought in the EU, including when you have purchased from a non-EU (now including UK) online trader who has specifically targeted EU consumers.

From 1 January 2021, however, Irish consumers who shop directly from the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) the applicable consumer rights will be set down in UK law, which is similar to and based on EU law. [5]

REDRESS OPTIONS

If Irish consumers make a purchase from a UK trader with a registered presence in Ireland, their redress options and any request for repair, replacement, or refund remain unchanged. Complaints against UK brands with a retail presence in Ireland should be forwarded to Competition and Consumer Protection Commission here. If Irish consumers return a purchase to the seller in the UK, Revenue has detailed how to claim back the taxes here.

Consumers based in the Republic of Ireland who have a purchase dispute with a trader based in the United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland) can seek assistance from the European Consumer Centre Ireland, which in 2021 works in collaboration with the Consumer Centre UK to facilitate resolution for disputes ongoing at 31 December 2020 and new complaints arising in 2021 until further notice.

If the trader based in the UK or outside the EU/EEA marketed goods in the country where the consumer lives and the transaction resulted in a dispute, initiating legal action through the national courts (for example the Irish court system) is also a possibility. In practice, however, asserting one’s consumer rights with a trader based outside the EU may prove difficult. We advise consumers to seek legal advice before commencing any cross-border proceedings against a trader established outside the EU.

The most convenient redress option in cases of non-delivery of a non-EU/UK purchase remains a request for chargeback through the consumer’s bank or financial institution. Redress options no longer available to EU consumers in respect to UK traders are: the European Smalls Claims Court and the Online Dispute Resolution procedure and platform.

PASSENGER RIGHTS

In the field of transport, the EU-UK cooperation agreement provides for continued and sustainable air, road, rail and maritime connectivity and calls for measures to protect basic passenger rights, such as access to information, special measures for disability and reduced mobility, reimbursement and compensation, and handling of complaints.

AIR PASSENGER RIGHTS

As of 1 January 2021, when the UK became a third (non-EU) country, EU air passenger rights will continue to apply to:

  • flights operated from the UK to the EU by an EU airline, and
  • flights operated from the EU to the UK
  • flights departing from non-EU countries that arrive on EU airports and
    are operated by EU-licensed carriers

The right to assistance by air carriers (meals, refreshments, accommodation) continues to apply to air passengers departing from an UK airport and arriving into an EU airport, if the flight is operated by an EU airline.

EU air passenger rights will no longer apply to UK-operated flights from the UK to the EU, unless the operating UK aircarrier of the flight concerned has an operating licence granted by an EU Member State.

EU law granting specific rights for disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility will no longer apply to commercial passenger air services that depart from / transit through / arrive at an airport in the United Kingdom.

OTHER PASSENGER RIGHTS

From 1 January 2021, EU law on ship passenger rights continues to apply where the port of embarkation is in the EU or in the United Kingdom, provided that the port of disembarkation is in the EU and the service is operated by a carrier established within the territory of a Member State or offering passenger transport services to or from an EU Member State.

From 1 January 2021, EU law on bus/coach passenger rights continues to apply to passengers travelling with regular services of 250km+ to/from the United Kingdom where the boarding or the alighting point is in the EU.

From 1 January 2021, EU law on rail passengers’ rights continues to apply to services within the European Union, provided that the railway operator is licensed in the EU.

Ireland-UK updates on rail, maritime and coach/bus rights with respect to travel to/from/within the UK will be updated by the National Transport Authority, when finalised, here.

HOLIDAYS

PACKAGE HOLIDAYS and LINKED TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS

EU consumer protections apply to a package holiday bought from / booked with a UK-based travel agency / tour operator only if that particular package was marketed to consumers in Ireland. All other packages are governed by UK law, which can be accessed here.

INDEPENDENT HOLIDAYS

Independent holiday individual services purchased from operators outside the EU will continue to be governed by the Terms & Conditions specified in the contracts, which also details the applicable jurisdiction law.

ROAMING

EU mobile data and calls roaming rules will change in the UK and further updates will available from the Commission for Communications Regulation here. Nevertheless, mobile operators may not apply additional charges – check your mobile service provider’s updates.

The European Consumer Centre Ireland will continue to assist Irish consumers with complaints against UK traders post Brexit, from January 2021 and until further notice. Nevertheless, we advise that, when entering into a transaction with traders based outside Ireland and the EU/EEA, directly in person or online, or via a marketplace/shopping platform, Irish consumers should exert due diligence and take steps to protect themselves by reading the all the applicable terms and conditions, informing themselves on the trader’s returns and cancellation policies, and using a secure method of payment that facilitates redress if something goes wrong.

Consumers who have tried to resolve the matter directly with the trader to no avail, and require assistance on how to proceed further can contact the European Consumer Centre Ireland here.
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NOTES
[1] The United Kingdom left the European Union following the conclusion of the Withdrawal Agreement, and the subsequent signing of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement and the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland which apply provisionally until 28 February 2021.
[2] . While Brexit creates new barriers to trade in goods and services between the EU and the UK, the free trade agreements and its associated Horizontal Agreement on Governance, becomes the new regulatory instrument for cross-border trade detailing the enforcement and dispute settlement mechanisms.
[3] The trade rules above will change from 1 July 2021. Learn more about taxes and charges when shopping from a non-European Union country here.
[4] Goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain will constitute “imports”, which will be subject to customs formalities and other regulatory checks and controls for safety, health and other public policy purposes.
The ‘proof of origin’ rule applies to all products coming into Ireland from the UK, and that made in the UK. Find out about the tariffs, taxes, customs procedures and rules of origin for products imported from UK into Ireland here.
Goods originating in the EU, imported into the UK, and then exported from the UK into Ireland will be subject to import duty. Learn more about the new customs, taxes, import, VAT and handling charges when shopping from the UK, as detailed on the Irish Revenue and Customs website here.
[5] Read about UK consumer legislation here and the rights of EU consumers when shopping outside the EU, including the UK, here.
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QUOTE

“The European Consumer Centre Ireland advises consumers to take precautions when shopping in/from the UK online or in person by thoroughly reading the terms and conditions, and the returns and cancellation policies. It is also advisable to pay using a credit/debit card in order to avail of chargeback for any subsequent problems such as non-delivery or unsafe goods.” 

(Dr Cyril Sullivan, Director – European Consumer Centre Ireland)