Before Brexit, UK shoppers could buy items from anywhere in the EU without having to worry about import duties and other charges. However, following Brexit, things have changed. Brits ordering items from the EU are now facing increased postage prices due to new rules on customs and taxes.
If you are wondering whether you can get a refund for an EU purchase that arrives with unexpected charges for customs and tax, here’s everything you need to know.
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Increased postage prices for EU purchases
Despite the UK and the EU reaching a free trade deal, new taxes and charges apply to almost everything that goes back and forth between the two, according to the BBC.
The ultimate result is that UK consumers shopping from European stores and websites are now asked to pay extra for their parcels to be released from warehouses on arrival in the UK.
The BBC has highlighted a couple of cases where shoppers have been forced to pony up extra cash for packages ordered from the EU.
One customer had to pay an extra £123 for two handbags she ordered from a retailer in France. Another shopper had to pay £78 more for a £150 pair of boots also bought from France.
Even a gift sent by a friend from abroad can come with a costly surprise as one London-based journalist discovered. A friend in Greece sent her a pair of gold earrings as a gift. But to receive them, she had to part with nearly £30 in taxes.
What new charges are causing increased postage prices?
There’s still much confusion about the new Brexit rules. However, the increased postage prices basically come down to three main charges: custom duties, VAT and admin fees.
For example, anyone receiving a gift from the EU that is worth more than £39 has to pay import VAT of 20%, according to the new rules.
Also, if you buy an item worth more than £135 from the EU, you’ll need to pay import duty for it. The specific amount will depend on what the item is and its value.
Some delivery firms and couriers, including Royal Mail, DHL, TNT and others, have also started charging an admin fee to cover the costs of extra customs checks and paperwork.
The thing to be wary of is that some of these extra charges may not always be revealed at the point of purchase.
Say you buy an item worth more than £135. The VAT is applied not at the point of purchase but when the item actually reaches you.
That’s why you might find a courier asking you to top up more cash for them to deliver your item.
Before buying something from the EU, it’s useful to ask the retailer if additional customs and VAT charges are likely.
Can you get a refund because of higher postage prices?
Under both UK and EU rules, you are entitled to a refund for an order made online (or through other types of distance selling such as via a phone call) if you cancel and return it within 14 days (with a few exceptions).
The retailer must give you a refund within 14 days of receiving your cancellation request.
The refund must include any postage charges you might have paid when you made the purchase. This is unless you specifically requested non-standard delivery, such as express delivery.
Normally, you are not responsible for return postage costs. However, some companies charge a small admin fee for processing the cancellation and refund. But it all depends on the terms and conditions of the retailer, so read the fine print carefully.
Can I avoid the extra charges?
The easiest way to avoid increased postage prices is to limit your shopping to companies that fulfil orders from within the UK.
However, you’ll need to be careful. Just because a site has ‘co.uk’ in its URL doesn’t mean that it fulfils its orders locally. To be sure, contact the retailer and ask where they fulfil their orders from.
One final thing to keep in mind is that when shopping on a foreign site, you could be charged an extra fee for non-sterling transactions.
To avoid this additional fee, always choose to pay in sterling if such an option exists. Alternatively, consider using a debit card or a credit card that does not charge for non-sterling transactions.