Online shopping charges have changed since Brexit - everything you need to know

Online shopping charges have changed since Brexit - everything you need to know (Photo: Shutterstock)

Shoppers around the UK are being caught out by extra charges when ordering from online retailers based in the European Union.

Additional charges, including customs duties and VAT on parcels sent to the UK, are part of post-Brexit life.

When the UK was in the European Union’s customs union, goods were able to move freely between the UK and other member states without import taxes being charged. These rules have now changed, since the UK’s official exit from the EU.

Where can you get charged?

Customs declaration forms are required to be filled out by EU retailers sending packages to the UK. This means that shoppers may also have to pay customs or VAT charges on their purchase.

Charges will be dependent on the value of the product and where it came from.

Online orders up to £135

Online orders up to £135 are now supposed to have the UK’s current VAT rate added at the point of sale by the EU retailer.

Anyone in the UK receiving a gift from the EU worth more than £39 will face a bill for import VAT, at 20 per cent.

Shoppers should note, this payment cannot be paid in advance (at the purchase of the item), and is only levied when the item reaches the UK.

Online orders over £135

Online orders above £135 will also attract import duty. This charge will range from zero to 25 per cent of the item’s value depending on what it is, what material the item is made from and its declared value.

VAT will then be added to the total, as the current UK rate. Generally speaking, this is 20 percent.

The charges will continue with a courier admin fee. This is typically between £8 with the Royal Mail and £11.50 with UPS. This cost can also be for the amount paid to clear the item through customs, which is a minimum charge of £11 with DHL.

Things to watch out for

Receiving invoice after delivery

Mistakes in the delivery process can sometimes mean getting charged the invoice for your customs charges after an item has been delivered.

This will mean you are required to pay the extra charges despite already fully purchasing the item and it being delivered. Watch your post for a declaration form with the required amount to pay.

Check the small print

When you have found a great deal online, make sure to first check whether the website is a UK or EU retailer. This can be done by looking at the website URL.

If it ends with .ie, or .eu, or the prices are displayed in euros, you will most likely be purchasing from an EU-based retailer.

  • Another method is to check the terms and conditions, and privacy policy, or contact pages of the website. Look out for:
  • A physical address for the businessAny information on where the orders are shipped from. This will be found in the delivery section of the company’s terms and conditions

When making the order, be sure to check the terms and conditions of the purchase, and understand your rights around:

  • Returning the item, and whether the business will cover the cost of returns.
  • Cancelling the order before it has been dispatched.

What are your rights and disputes?

Because of the changes in fees, UK consumer rights when buying online, or receiving gifts from the EU, is slightly more complicated.

VAT, customs duties and handling fees may all need to be paid. These could be applied before the delivery, however, shoppers may need to visit the post office to pay all the charges, before the item is released.

Under the Consumer Rights Act, shoppers have the right of 14 days to return an unwanted item. However, they may have to pay extra costs when sending it back.

Disputes over “hidden charges” can no longer be settled in UK courts because the UK is no longer a EU member state. The dispute will fall under the jurisdiction of the sellers location.