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Friday 22 September 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Gráinne Ní Aodha/
# An Post
Brexit won't affect how you send letters, but your consumer rights for UK purchases may change
Minister of State Helen McEntee was in Portlaoise Mail Centre today to monitor preparations.

AN POST HAS told customers “not to worry” about its preparations for a no-deal Brexit, saying “it’s not a big deal” as it has procedures in place for checking parcels from non-EU countries – although that volume is set to increase dramatically after Brexit.

The government and the consumer regulator here, however, called for consumers to be aware that their consumer rights and online pricing could change dramatically after Brexit, and to check British retailers’ terms and conditions before purchasing items.

Ireland receives 14 million parcels from the UK a year, and 10 million parcels from non-EU countries – meaning items that An Post has to check customs and duties on will more than double after Brexit.

During a visit by Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee to Portlaoise Mail Centre today, An Post’s Managing Director Garret Bridgeman said that the centre would be the first point where UK parcels would be examined, in an effort to avoid the expected delays at ports. 

He said An Post has been working with the Royal Mail for the past year to prepare for Brexit. In three sites in Ireland that have customs officers – Portlaoise, Athlone, and Dublin – additional staff has been provided to prepare for a no-deal.

For the Dublin site, €15 million has been provided for an automated parcel machine which will be ready by the end of October – in time for the latest Brexit deadline.

Although Bridgeman said there would be no postage hikes from An Post, if there’s a no-deal Brexit there will be additional costs for customs and excise on parcels being sent from the UK (as if the product is being sent from the US).

Bridgeman said that An Post’s parcel volume doubles or trebles at Christmas, so they are prepared for an increase in checks on parcels, but there are other issues such as the recent dramatic drop in sterling which may influence online purchases from Ireland further than expected.

“Brexit has no impact on letters, just on parcels,” he said.

In six months’ time, An Post said it will launch a text service that will allow customers to pay for customs on items coming from non-EU countries by email or text.

Since the incident in March where an explosive parcel was sent from Ireland to London, An Post said it has “put in place additional procedures and purchased new equipment to make sure we have even better controls” than have already been in place ahead of a feared increase in violence in the event of a no-deal Brexit.   

20190826_144832 Gráinne Ní Aodha / Gráinne Ní Aodha / /

Ireland’s consumer regulator has also warned people to start looking now at what their consumer rights are with retailers in the UK. If the UK leaves without a deal, Irish shoppers buying from British stores won’t be protected by the EU’s consumer laws.

The legal footing for consumer rights will revert from a statutory basis to the terms and conditions of the British company from which an item is being bought.

Fergal O’Leary of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission said today that an information campaign would begin in the coming weeks to prepare customers for the shift in those rights. 

When you buy online from a business in the EU you have strong consumer rights, particularly if you change your mind or if your purchases are not delivered. These rights do not apply if you buy from a business outside of the EU.

“So it is important to prepare now for the possibility that following Brexit there will be changes to your rights if you are buying online from a UK based retailer.”

When you buy from a business outside the EU, the CCPC explained before, you pay VAT if the value of the items plus shipping is €22 or more. VAT must be paid on imported items at the same rate that applies in Ireland for similar goods.

You also legally have to pay import charges such as customs or excise duties on items you buy from non-EU countries worth €150 or more.

Minister McEntee was also asked for her reaction to a proposal by former Europe Minister Lucinda Creighton at the weekend, that the backstop should be limited to five years.

“A backstop with a time limit ceases to be a backstop,” she said, sticking to the long-touted Irish government and EU line.

What’s being asked of us at the moment is to remove a legal guarantee and replace it with nothing but a commitment to try and find some other solution.

She also disagreed that the Withdrawal Agreement was dead, but said that the Irish government’s default core position for preparations had been a no-deal Brexit “for some time”. She said she welcomed new Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s meetings with EU leaders, but said that it was still up to the UK to ratify the thrice-rejected Withdrawal Agreement.

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