All online retailers must ensure all taxes and customs charges are included in the total price of goods and services ordered by consumers, according to Fine Gael Senator Garret Ahearn.
Senator Ahearn, Fine Gael’s Seanad spokesperson on Enterprise and Trade said, “Following Britain leaving the Customs Union in January 2021, customers were warned about the possibility of additional charges that may apply depending on the value and origin of goods and services being ordered.
“The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has since received complaints from consumers who reported they had unknowingly bought from a .ie website, believing that it was an EU registered company, only to discover this was not so due to the billing of customs charges.
“One constituent told me how they had purchased a product from a website she believed was based in France, but the product in fact ended up being shipped from the United States and as a result they had to pay a customs fee of €100 to the delivery company when the product arrived.
“Sometimes customers may suspect they are ordering goods from an Irish or EU based website, but this is not always the case and they could then be hit with additional costs such as customs or UK VAT, in addition to handling fees which may be charged by delivery companies on behalf of Revenue.
“According to the CCPC, the registration of .ie domains is not covered by consumer protection law and there is no requirement under consumer protection law for .ie websites to be based in Ireland.
“Many businesses have adapted to Brexit and set up new warehouse locations to limit the disruption to consumers. Many firms outside the EU, particularly UK firms, now ship to Ireland from within the EU so no customs checks, or charges apply.
“Consumers are protected by laws when they are buying from an EU registered business, but significant challenges can arise if consumers unknowingly buy from a non-EU business and subsequently encounter a problem.
“A highly publicised information campaign would also be helpful of what consumers should look out for to avoid any hidden charges. These include;
- Checking the business’s registered address in the T&Cs section of the website to find out where they are registered, even 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 a business has more than one website with a number of different domains – e.g. ‘.de’ or ‘.co.uk’ check the registered address on each website before you buy from it.
- Buying from a non-EU website means that consumer rights do not automatically apply and if something does go wrong, it may be more difficult to get the issue resolved, particularly if goods or services are of a high value.
“All online retailers, regardless of where they are based, should do their utmost to ensure that the total price of the goods or services is inclusive of taxes and import duties/customs charges.
“At the very least they should warn customers that they could be liable for additional charges and give them the necessary information before the consumer makes a payment,” Senator Ahearn concluded.