Customers in Europe who buy products ranging from furniture to pet food from UK businesses either receive unexpected invoices for VAT and customs declarations or find surnames have stopped shipping to the continent because post-Brexit trade rules bite.
“We bought a 47 € [£42] Next shelf for our bathroom, ”said Thom Basely, who lives in Marseille. “The morning it was supposed to be delivered, we received a request for ‘import duties / taxes’ of over € 30, as a ransom note. It was a total surprise.
Frankfurt resident who ordered bicycle clothing from a British company has been sent a tax and customs claim of 102 €, while a woman in the Netherlands who bought pants in December “without problem” facing an invoice of 40 € for two other pairs ordered in January.
Chris Hickson, a retired logistics and freight forwarding expert living in France, said many people might have been surprised because “they thought the free trade agreement negotiated between the UK and the EU meant that there would be no additional charges ”.
Since the end of the Brexit transition period, however, mainland customers must both complete a customs declaration for goods imported from the UK – a procedure typically performed by carriers, for which consumers will be charged, often up to € 20 per declaration – and pay national VAT.
Other European customers have been told that iconic UK retailers like luxury food store Fortnum & Mason are unfortunately “not able to ship products to European countries at this time, due to Brexit restrictions ”.
Customers of the John Lewis department store chain, also beloved by UK citizens living in the EU, who appreciate its ‘never knowingly under-sold’ price match guarantee and reliable customer service, were also disappointed.
Until December, the retailer offered delivery to the EU of many items for sale through its website, including clothing. But anyone requesting delivery in Europe is now greeted with a page that says, “We are no longer taking orders for international delivery. “
Some retailers, such as George at Asda, have not promised any additional fees, but several international platforms, including Asos, have halted deliveries to Europe from their UK locations, instead directing buyers to domestic versions, for example. example in France.
David Martin, who lives in the Creuse region of central France, said he transferred his regular dog food order from pet supply company Zooplus to his Irish site after being informed that the British platform no longer accepted orders from the continent.
A ‘deposit on import charge’, meanwhile, is now automatically added to orders from mainland Europe placed through Amazon’s UK website, nearly doubling the cost of some items and making significantly cheaper looking for a European alternative.
Hickson said customs declaration fees are typically collected by international shipping companies, such as DHL or UPS, responsible for transporting the goods, with customers informed of the fee – and required to pay – before delivery.
“A lot of vendors don’t know yet that is the case, or if they are, they may not be able to say in advance what the invoice will be,” he said. “VAT depends on the category of goods and their value. Calculating everything can be complicated. “
Despite the tariff-free deal, customs duties will apply to goods ordered in the UK that are not from Great Britain. Goods ordered and manufactured in the UK should not be subject to customs duties, but goods ordered in the UK valued over € 150 and outside of Great Britain will be.
A leading French mainstream website cited the example of a pair of sneakers ordered from a UK website for £ 270 but made and shipped from China, claiming tariffs of 16.9% and 20% French VAT would bring their cost to around £ 378.
And while mainland buyers are no longer charged UK VAT on UK purchases, they now have to pay local VAT in their country of residence – although this is waived for orders below € 22 through July 31. . Platforms such as Amazon have the right to collect continental VAT on orders valued under € 150.
“It’s an extremely complex situation,” Hickson said. “My recommendation to anyone in the EU looking to buy goods from the UK is: don’t order anything until you know what the charges and VAT will be. And be patient. This should all work out eventually, but it will take time.