No-deal Brexit could end UK 14-day returns and will slash EU shoppers’ rights, as results will immediately end protection for EU shoppers buying British goods. As a result, UK online traders face falling sales at home and abroad.
Brexit may have a considerable impact on UK internet shoppers’ consumer rights – and on the protection offered to European Union (EU) online shoppers buying British goods – the international delivery expert ParcelHero is warning. UK internet shoppers’ current rights to return almost any item within 14 days, even if they are not faulty, were introduced in 2014 only because the UK Government was forced to match the EU Consumer Rights Directive. After Brexit there is nothing to stop the Consumer Contracts Regulations being repealed, as the European Union Withdrawal Act will end the authority of EU law in the UK. That means our EU-based laws can be overturned by the Government in the future, potentially spelling a return to the bad old days of the former UK Distance Selling Regulations: which gave just 7 days grace before sending back unwanted goods. A week is not a long enough time for busy consumers to discover that a product doesn’t fit or live up to their expectations.
And EU shoppers buying British goods online will also find they are less protected, reveals ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks. ‘For example, Ireland’s consumer regulator, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, has already launched an information campaign warning that If the UK leaves without a deal, Irish shoppers buying from British stores won’t be protected by the EU’s consumer laws. It says 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.’ That could well make British goods less attractive in the EU – especially as, under WTO rules, there will already be VAT to pay on the value of items plus shipping if they are worth over €22, and duties on items worth over €150.
Further, UK shoppers should be warned that buying from EU-sellers, including Amazon traders, could be similarly impacted to their Continental counterparts. It points out the Government’s own guide, Buying things from Europe after Brexit, admits ‘If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, you may have to deal with the court system in the country you bought from to get compensation.’ It also cautions UK shoppers may be charged more for using credit or debit cards to pay for things in euros when they buy from companies in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway; and concedes payments may also take longer.
‘No matter where they live, there really don’t seem to be many upsides for online consumers to a no-deal Brexit,’ concludes David. ‘And that in turn means lower sales for Britain’s online retailers, currently the only retail sector looking at all healthy.’
ParcelHero’s influential report on the impact of returns on UK retailers, Retailers Reach the Point of No Returns, revealed 8% of internet shoppers now regularly return items several times a month under EU-integrated legislation, while over 10% buy several sizes of clothes and shoes, and simply send back the ones that don’t fit.