On 1 July 2021, new EU customs laws came into place. So what are they all about?

These new laws are in place to protect European businesses, jobs and manufacturing. They are also there to protect consumers, especially if you have been a victim of an unreliable shipment from outside the EU in the past.

Many of us have been there – you see a lovely dress online at a bargain price but the flowing gown on screen looks like a tent when it arrives. While consumers are well protected under EU law, this doesn’t apply to many countries outside of the EU and so the dress ends up in the bin rather than your wardrobe. So while companies abroad profit from these products of mixed quality, the responsibility falls on European countries to deal with the disposal.

These new regulations apply to every country in the world outside the EU and have been planned for years, long before Brexit was even a word. But we as Irish consumers are feeling the impact far more because Britain is our biggest trading partner.

So what does this mean for you as Black Friday approaches? Anna McHugh, head of corporate communications with An Post explains: “If you are shopping within Ireland or with any retailer based in the EU, nothing has changed. You’ll place your order and it will usually be delivered within a few days or, at the latest, within 30 days, according to European consumer law. So shop local, support Irish, support Europe.”

Consumers should also view this as an opportunity to explore some European companies.

Zalando, for example, is a clothes website that has grown in popularity. But also look towards smaller European retailers in the same way that we would like people in France or Germany to support Irish retailers.

Shopping outside the EU

If you choose to shop outside the EU, Anna says look towards the big international retailers.

“This is because when Brexit was coming into effect, they made arrangements to sort all the customs charges that are due at the checkout when you are paying. There will be no outstanding amount due and your items should arrive hassle free. These include companies such as Marks & Spencer, River Island and Boots but be sure to check the returns policy as the cost of sending a return may have increased substantially”

A more comprehensive list of these retailers can be found on https://www.anpost.com/customs-information”

You’ll also find some large companies moved their distribution depots out of the UK and are now dispatching from Europe with no issue. These include companies such as Next and Amazon, the later of which is opening a new Irish distribution centre in Baldonnell Business Park, Dublin.

If you decide to shop outside the EU, customs apply. Anna says: “Take an example of a small knitting shop in Yorkshire in the UK. You’ve been sourcing your wool from them for years, you like their quality and they know you well. Unfortunately, what worked in the past will not work now. If you’re buying from them, it is essential to urge them to adhere to the EU customs rules. Because if they don’t have the right forms or if they include an item which is now on the prohibited list, customs will then return the item to sender and it will not be processed. That is a waste of time for everyone.”

If everything is done according to the rules and regulations and it comes in through customs and there is an amount due, such as VAT or a customs duty, then customs will transfer that data to An Post. Anna says: “You may be notified by email or a text and then a card in an envelope will be delivered by your postman detailing the charges that are due.”

Careful what you click

In a world where scams are becoming more and more sophisticated, Anna gives this advice: “An Post will never send you a text or email with a link to pay. It will simply advise you that a payment is due. If you see a link, do not click on it as this is a scam.

“The An Post text message will detail a secure website where you can log on yourself and pay or you can go to your local post office with the card you received in the post and pay there. Once paid, your item will be delivered within a day or two. It’s also worth noting that An Post no longer takes payment for customs at the door. That used to happen in the past but you can no longer pay your postman. Also you’re also well within your rights to decline the customs payment and have the item returned to sender. Sometimes people get a shock at the amount so you can send it back. So really the advice to shop local means a much simpler online shopping experience.”

Sending Abroad

If you’re planning to post packages to countries outside the EU, customs charges will also affect you. You now need to fill in a more detailed form online at www.anpost.com/customs. You will be issued with a code which you must take to the post office. Alternatively, if you aren’t comfortable filling out the form online, you can bring it to the post office and the staff there will help you fill it out but just be aware that it may take longer.

Duties will have to be paid but there is a bit of a leeway if you are posting gifts up to the value of €45 (including postage). So if you have a lovely package for your family in Australia or America, be sure to fill out these forms. Otherwise, your package won’t get into the country, that’s how strict it is and no one wants family members to be without their gifts at Christmas.

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