As of 1 January 2021, the EU and the UK form two separate markets and distinct regulatory and legal spaces [i] 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 [ii].
The European Consumer Centre Ireland continues to assist Irish consumers with complaints against UK traders after 1 January 2021.
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. [iii] Read the Irish Government’s Brexit guidance for consumers here.
From 1 January 2021, if you shop directly from the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) and your order is shipped from the UK, additional costs will apply. [iv] EU rules will continue to apply to cross-border transactions that started before 1 January 2021. If you shop from Ireland 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.
When buying goods and services anywhere in the EU Irish consumers have clear rights when it comes to: contract information, pricing and payments, VAT – 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, if you 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.[v]
If you make a purchase from a UK trader with a registered presence in Ireland, your 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 you return a purchase to the seller in the UK, Revenue has detailed how you can 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 until the end of 2021.
If the trader based in the UK or outside the EU/EEA marketed goods in the country where you live and your transaction with them resulted in a dispute, initiating legal action through the Irish court system is also a possibility.In practice, however, asserting your consumer rights with a trader who is 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 your bank. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.