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Brexit EU consumer rights

                                Picture: Pixabay

Friday 31st January 2020 was the last day of United Kingdom’s membership to the European Union. By all accounts, this marked the end of quite an important era in EU history as the much-delayed Brexit finally arrived.

As the 31st of January deadline was the first step to end a period of relative confusion and anxiety over how Brexit will be ironed out in practical and political terms, here at European Consumer Centre (ECC) Ireland, we want to provide some guidance on a few of the more pressing issues that may concern an Ireland-based consumer buying in/from the UK.

How will Brexit affect your consumer rights? The short answer is, “It doesn’t”; for now. Not until the end of 2020, at least. Rights of Irish and European Union consumers when buying from traders based in the UK remain unchanged until the end of the Brexit transition period (1 February – 31 December 2020). EU law will continue to apply at least until the end of this transition period (which may be subject to extension).

ECC Ireland has already received queries from Irish consumers relating to how Brexit and this transition period may impact on their consumer rights arising from purchases made after the 31st January 2020 deadline. For the moment, nothing will change – the consumer protection afforded to Irish residents under EU law will extend to all consumer transactions with traders based in the UK during this transition period.

These rights include but are not limited to the following:

  • Buying Goods and Services

    The same consumer rights apply to goods and services bought from traders based in the UK during the transition period.When shopping online, your consumer rights include:

    – access to clear information about the product or service you are buying as to price, shipping and delivery costs;
    – the right of withdrawal (also known as the 14-day cooling-off period) for most online purchases (exceptions apply);
    – the right to refund for delayed arrival or non-delivery, and
    – the right to redress in case of faulty goods purchased in either online or offline transactions.

  • Travel

    For the remainder of the year 2020, the rules applicable to travel transactions and arrangements between Ireland and the UK will not change. Flights, ferries, cruise ships and trains will continue to operate as usual. Where your flight is cancelled or delayed, or you are denied boarding, you have significant entitlements under existing EU law. In the event of delays, cancellations, and incidents involving passenger ships, EU legislation protecting ship passenger rights cover you when you travel with a sea carrier based in the EU and to/from an EU port.

  • Package Holidays

    EU rules will remain in place during the transition period to provide protection to travellers who book package holidays with operators based in the UK. Your package-holiday rights include the expectation that the holiday you booked matches the description given to you at the time of the purchase, and that, if something goes wrong with your holiday, you have the right to make a complaint and submit a claim for compensation.

  • Mobile Roaming

    EU mobile data and calls roaming rules will also apply in the UK for the rest of the year. Under EU rules you can “roam like at home” and pay the same rates for calls and texts as you would at home while travelling within EU. For example, if your price bundle includes unlimited calls and texts, then you have unlimited calls and texts to use while you travel in the EU.

shopping online EU

                                         Picture: Pixabay

Nevertheless, as always when entering into a transaction with traders based outside Ireland, consumers should exert due diligence and take steps to protect themselves by reading the transaction’s and products’ terms and conditions, informing themselves on the trader’s returns and cancellation policies, and using a secure method of payment that facilitates redress if something goes wrong. Any trader who uses Brexit to disregard a consumer’s right and refuses to facilitate legitimate redress options is in breach of the consumer protection legislation currently in force in the UK.

ECC Ireland’s Director, Dr. Cyril Sullivan, cautions that ‘as you enjoy the last few months of Ireland – UK shopping and trading as we know it, be aware that all the above could change after the transition period has passed’. He suggests that consumers should monitor ECC Ireland’s website during 2020 for further guidance and advice.

Though UK consumer rights’ legislation may or may not change from 2021, there is some good news for Irish and EU consumers in that there will be further protections arising from the EU’s latest consumer rights directive (EU 2019/2161). This new piece of legislation aims to strengthen EU consumer protection instruments in light of the latest technological changes, and has been adopted to modernise EU consumer protection rules applicable to all intra-EU trade (including online marketplaces, which is where a great number of Irish people shop regularly when purchasing goods and services from outside of Ireland). ECC Ireland will be providing updates on this new directive as it is enacted into legislation across the European Union over the next while.


  • To find out more about your consumer rights in the European Union and the UK,
    browse our consumer topics information and advice on eccireland.ie
    .
  • For the latest updates on consumer issues, follow us on Twitter @eccireland.
  • Should you require assistance with cross-border consumer complaints,
    contact us for free expert advice here: eccireland.ie/contact-us.