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'It's like buying from China or the US': Brexit causes issues for Irish ordering online from UK

Customers have reported getting refunds after couriers temporarily paused their services for UK websites.

Image: Shutterstock/lovelyday12

CUSTOMERS IN IRELAND had their online orders affected by delays and cancellations after a courier service temporarily paused its deliveries here due to Brexit.

This is just one of multiple issues being highlighted by Irish-based consumers after Britain left the European Union on 31 December 2020. Customers of a range of companies have told TheJournal.ie about experiencing delays with items arriving, cancellations of orders, and higher than expected customs charges.

The combination of Brexit and the pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a difficult period for trading, Dermot Jewell of the Consumers Association of Ireland said.

“The reality is that purchasing from the UK now is the same as if you’re purchasing from China or the USA,” he said.

On 31 December last year, the UK left the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union.

New documentation and red tape is now required for deliveries between EU member states and Britain. Under the Northern Ireland protocol – which has an aim of avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland – new regulatory and customs processes were introduced for goods crossing the Irish Sea.

Customs and regulatory checks for items coming into Ireland are not new – only they didn’t apply to the UK while it was in the EU. This in turn affects companies couriering items across from the UK to the island of Ireland.

Delivery company DPD announced on 8 January that it was pausing parcel deliveries from the UK to Ireland as it dealt with customs changes caused by Brexit. It has since unpaused deliveries from the UK.

Some customers had their online purchases cancelled and refunded by companies because of this decision, it has emerged.

Asked about the latest update on DPD’s decision, a spokesperson from the company told TheJournal.ie today:

Traffic flows are moving but there are delays as a result of customs checks and protocols in place.
Significant additional information is required about each parcel before it can travel out of or be accepted into Ireland. Everyone is starting to get accustomed to the new processes – shippers and consumers alike – but it is taking time.

When parcels arrive into Ireland, the process is taking more time than usual because the data for each trailer load has to be presented to Customs, which has to approve that the load can be opened.

Once Customs has approved the loads, DPD messages the consignees to let them know if there is VAT/duty payable. If this is paid, then the process continues, but there is also the possibility some goods could be routed by Customs to be examined.

The DPD spokesperson said “the timeframe from dispatch to delivery is definitely a lot longer than previously”.

The same process applies over in the UK. DPD noted that some customers “still don’t have full understanding of what’s required, in which case parcels are held and cannot be routed onwards”.  

Paused and cancelled sales

Some stores have now stopped or paused online ordering for Ireland since Brexit kicked in.

The Tassimo website is one of those. It says on its site:

Unfortunately, due to Brexit related supply chain issues, we are unable to ship any orders to Ireland and as a result our webshop is shut. Please be assured we are working through these issues and will update you as soon as possible. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

When DPD paused its courier services, this also led to issues.

One reader contacted TheJournal.ie to say she bought an item that was then refunded due to the pause in DPD services.

She bought the item from the website Cyberjammies, which is a UK website. 

“On 13th January I received the automated email stating they had received my return and had refunded me in full. Of course I was thinking to myself – how could I have returned it to them when I hadn’t received it in the first place?” she said.

She then received a follow-up email from their customer service team explaining that DPD had returned the item to the company. 

Cyberjammies uses the couriers DPD for its deliveries to Europe and Ireland. 

The Cyberjammies website now has a message saying: 

Due to Brexit, orders to Europe and Ireland are suspended until further notice. 

cyberjammies Source: Cyberjammies website

Another store affected is Currys PC World. Though the company has an Irish website, all orders bought through this site are sent from England.

A number of customers told TheJournal.ie that they had been able to purchase items through the Irish Currys PC World website, but subsequently had the item or items refunded as they could not be delivered to Ireland.

The issue is also causing a delay for some orders placed on the site, the company acknowledged.

A customer who purchased a tablet on the Currys PC World Irish website on 4 January told us they presumed the item was going to be posted from within Ireland.

“There is nothing that says that it is coming from the UK,” he said. “It is now over two weeks later and there is still no indication of whether or not I will ever receive the tablet. It’s for someone’s birthday, so it’s unfortunate. Currys are blaming Brexit and the courier company DPD. The couriers are saying that all the Currys items have been returned to the company. Meanwhile I’m out of pocket for €500 and nobody is taking responsibility.”

In a statement, a Currys PC World spokesperson said:

“Our delivery partner, DPD, temporarily paused all deliveries from the UK to ROI earlier this month due to disruptions caused by Brexit. DPD European services have now resumed, however unfortunately, our deliveries to ROI are delayed. We have contacted all affected customers, and DPD has assured us they will receive their orders by 22 January. We are grateful for our customers’ patience as we continue to work closely with DPD.”

All orders placed online at currys.ie are fulfilled from its distribution centre in Newark, England, meaning they must all be sent from the UK to Ireland. DPD is Currys PC World’s delivery partner to ROI.

Currys PC World said it has “proactively contacted all affected customers to ensure they know when to expect their delivery” and continues to work closely with DPD. 

Similarly, a Topman customer told us that she had purchased an item from the site online, and received an email to say it had been dispatched, However, a few days later she received another email saying her refund was being processed. 

“When I queried they said it was because the courier was unable to deliver the item and sent it back to them,” she said. In this instance, she did not know the name of the courier company used.

A customer who ordered an item online from another company at the start of January had a similar experience. “I ordered something online at the start of the month. The company used DPD as a courier and it ended up in the UK, even though DPD told me it’d been delivered successfully,” he said. In this instance, he was told that the company would re-send the item, though it has not yet been received. 

Customers have also been surprised by the cost of Customs charges on goods shipped from the UK. One reader contacted us about their experience:

“I work and live in Ireland but our office are in the UK. Over Christmas, my work laptop was couriered back to London for a battery change. Upon sending it back to me we had to pay Vat and Customs of €320,” he said.

Revenue has a guide to Customs charges on its website.

Consumer advice

Dermot Jewell of the Consumers Association of Ireland (CAI) said today that there were warnings by the CAI and others before Brexit that “changes would happen and [businesses should] try to be prepared”.

“Despite that it still has had a sudden effect. It has caught people off guard, not all but many,” he said. 

He said that one of the biggest sites affected by Brexit is Amazon.co.uk, and that anecdotally customers have been using its French and German sites to avoid delays and customs charges. 

“They may be our nearest neighbour but it’s as if they’re the furthest distance away in terms of business trading,” Jewell said of the UK. 

The new Revenue rules for the UK could mean extra VAT, duty, and higher packaging and delivery costs, he pointed out.

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“It’s a very changed environment. A lot of consumers have already taken their focus and acknowledged the reality that it makes sense to either buy local if you can or to look to purchasing elsewhere within the EU.”

He said that it is a requirement for websites to say where they are sending their items from, and that the guidance is that this information should be easily found on the website.

“Trade names tell you nothing,” he said. “There’s an assumption made by the average consumer.”

He also warned consumers that the 14-day cooling-off period no longer applies with items bought online from the UK, unless it specifically says on the website.

“Trying to find a solution is not going to be easy. Even the solution of place of manufacture is a significant problem,” said Jewell.

He gave the example of someone in Ireland wanting to buy an item from a UK website. If that item is not manufactured in the UK, they will pay VAT and tariffs on it, so it will be more expensive for the Irish customer. 

“All the old benefits [from Britain being in the EU] are gone,” said Jewell. He said companies “need to recognise it is a confusing situation now” for consumers.

“Try to source locally,” he advised those who do want to buy online. “The next real solution is to look to purchase in Ireland or elsewhere in the EU.”

He added that Covid-19 has caught a lot of companies in the UK off guard, and that this is exacerbating any issues.

Meanwhile, An Post said on 8 January that the Irish postal service is “trading fully and smoothly with almost all of the UK online retailers for whom it delivers across Ireland”. It has also put in place “a digital solution” for its UK retailers.

An Post says that 95% of its customers have opted to use this digital system. It did warn, however, that some delays should be expected.

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