- Brexit is having an impact on online retail.
- Consumers are reporting unexpected costs and fees.
- Retailers are obliged to provide consumers with comprehensive information about any costs.
The United Kingdom (UK) has left the European Union and following lengthy negotiations, thepost- Brexit EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement came into on 1 January 2021. Since then, consumers have been feeling the impact of Brexit, including when shopping online. Since January 2021, consumer organisations have received repeated complaints about customs duties, import taxes and other fees that are suddenly added when goods are purchased online.
After ordering from German websites, consumers are having to pay unexpected customs duties, import taxes or handling fees. Since January 2021, this has been frequently reported by consumers receiving goods purchased online from the UK. Sometimes, consumers have been unaware that they were buying from a non-EU retailer until being charged these extra fees, since the retailers’ websites were entirely in German and often ended with the top-level domain “.de”. In addition, according to consumers, there was insufficient information that the goods were being shipped from the UK. Retailers are also citing Brexit as the reason for missing and late deliveries, as well as problems with cancellations and returns. In these cases, the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband – vzbv) is contemplating taking legal action.
European consumer protection legislation applies
“Six months after the Trade and Cooperation Agreement came into force, it is clear that Brexit is having an impact on online retail. In this case, it’s consumers who are suffering, since retailers are failing to comply with their obligation to inform consumers,” summarises Isabelle Buscke, Head of the Brussels Office at vzbv. Companies targeting consumers within the European Union are obliged to inform them of the total price of their purchase, including any costs. These include customs duties, import taxes and any other fees that may arise. “European consumer protection legislation should be better enforced. The EU must put this issue at the top of the agenda for its meetings with UK representatives,” demands Buscke.
Reporting problems with online shopping
Consumers can use the complaints mailbox provided by the consumer associations to report their experiences of Brexit problems. Consumers can also visit verbraucherzentrale.de for comprehensive information as to what they need to consider when making online purchases from the UK (in German).