Brexit will impact consumer rights, warns watchdog
Irish consumers are planning on buying Irish after Brexit and many have already switched from UK websites due to concerns around consumer rights.
The Competition & Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) said there has been an 18% increase in the number of people planning on buying more from Irish-based businesses.
But more than half of consumers here still buy from UK-based businesses. We buy more clothes, footwear and electronics than any other items from UK sellers.
The CCPC surveyed consumers as it points out the pitfalls of buying from non-EU countries.
It is concerned that a lack of awareness about consumer rights when buying from non-EU countries could make consumers more vulnerable post Brexit.
From 1 January, many of the rights to which consumers have become accustomed when buying from the UK will no longer apply.
Consumers are being advised to check where businesses they are buying from are based.
Purchases from EU-based websites come with robust consumer rights, including the right to return goods for up to 14 days after you receive them, if you simply change your mind. This principal should apply to purchases from the UK that are made in December.
So, in other words, if you want to return something to a UK seller in January, they should apply EU consumer rights. But, in the absence of any formal agreement between the EU and the UK, if a UK business does not honour consumer rights, your ability to find a resolution could be difficult.
If there is a dispute, there is no one to appeal to as the UK will no longer be an EU member state. So, a rogue seller can not be forced to give consumers their EU rights.
You should also check the cancellation and returns policy if buying from businesses outside the EU. Many consumers don’t and they can often end up losing out as a result. You should check and see can you return the item if you change your mind.
It is also worth checking if you can cancel the order before dispatch, or if you receive the item, ask who will pay the cost of returning the package – you or the business from which you are buying? Many of the big online retailers have a free returns policy.
The next one is a crucial one, and many of us are caught out by it.
Check if there are additional taxes or charges if buying from outside the EU and, from 1 January, that will include the UK. VAT and customs charges can often apply on delivery.
To protect yourself, pay by card. If a business charges you twice or fails to deliver the purchase, you can use a facility know as Chargeback, which will see your bank return the money to your card and penalise the business. This is worth considering if there is any dispute with the company and you feel you have been cheated.
Brexit will mean that, as consumers, we will have to shift behaviour. We are now well accustomed to buying from UK brands, and within a few short weeks that will not be as easy or simple a procedure as it has been.
Buying from the UK will be like buying from any other non-EU country. If you have had a customs charge when you ordered something from the US or China, you’ll know the feeling when you realise, that bargain, well, wasn’t such a bargain after all.
The Competition & Consumer Protection Commission are raising awareness about this, because it knows full well that consumers will be affected pretty quickly.
Gráinne Griffin from the CCPC said: “In the build up to Christmas, more consumers than ever are shopping online and it is important for consumers to be aware that, from 1 January, Brexit will mean changes when buying online or returning goods from UK-based businesses.
“This is especially important for those who may be considering buying high value goods from UK-based businesses and who want to feel confident that that can follow up easily in the new year in case of any after-sales issues.”
In short, they want us all as consumers to be Brexit-aware if we are shopping online this Christmas.