The competition watchdog has warned that the rights which online shoppers take for granted when buying from UK retailers are likely to be fundamentally changed by Brexit.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has begun a six-week awareness campaign on the extent to which the UK leaving the EU will affect shoppers’ online experience.
The commission said that research it had commissioned via Ipsos/ MRBI revealed that 72% of shoppers had bought from a company based in the UK within the previous two years, with clothing, electronics and footwear the top three categories for purchases.
Of those queried, 60% said they were aware their rights are different when dealing with companies based outside the EU as opposed to member countries, with the lowest levels of awareness seen in the under-35 cohort.
Nearly 50% of respondents aged between 15-24 said, incorrectly, that their rights are unaffected by the status of the country from which they’re buying.
Possibly the main right of any consumer shopping online within the EU is the ability to return their purchase or otherwise change their mind, with 40% of the 1,000 respondents saying that they had returned items to a British retailer.
In the event of a no-deal Brexit, those rights cannot be guaranteed.
In addition, certain taxes and duties, including excise duty and Vat, may be chargeable on purchases from the UK in the aftermath of Brexit.
As things stand the UK will leave the European Union on October 31.
Chairperson Isolde Goggin said that the watchdog’s message is simple.
“Before you buy, check where the business is located and read the terms and conditions on the website.
“Be sure to check in particular the returns policy and see if you can return goods if you change your mind”.
She said it is in consumers’ best interests to check if there are costs for returning items.
“Make sure you are happy with these before you purchase anything,” Ms Goggin said.
Further information on what to be aware of if buying from UK traders can be found at www.gov.ie/Brexit.
Meanwhile, Business Minister Heather Humphreys urged “everyone to take heed of the information provided by the Government” in light of the of the commission’s findings.
“As consumers, there are steps that we can all take to lessen the potential impact,” Ms Humphreys said.