Like many in lockdown, Victoria Farrar decided to treat herself by trying out an online sale.
The 34-year-old paid £ 250 on January 12 for a dress from the chic French firm Sundress.
But she was shocked by the demand for an additional £ 99 tax when it was delivered a few days later.
Brexit invoices: Unexpected customs, handling and VAT invoices are causing chaos for shoppers ordering from EU stores
When she asked what would happen if she declined the item, she was told she would get the cost of the dress back minus the £ 99 in taxes. Now she is stuck with an expensive dress that is too big.
Miss Farrar is one of tens of thousands of internet shoppers accused of shock by EU retailers since Brexit.
Unexpected customs, handling and VAT invoices are causing chaos for customers, while some companies have halted shipping until problems are resolved.
Here Money Mail explains the additional costs and how to avoid them. . .
Espana in the making!
Stephen Burnby orders boxes of wine and spirits straight from Spain
For years Stephen Burnby and his wife had enjoyed having crates of European wine and spirits delivered at bargain prices.
Stephen, of Brighouse, West Yorkshire, used to order £ 15 bottles of cognac from Your Spanish Corner online supermarket at retail price in Spain.
But last week, the retiree was disappointed that the company’s UK deliveries had stopped.
Meanwhile, its other favorite retailer Portugal Vineyards has told customers that one of the UK’s best-selling wines, Vidigal Porta 6, which had cost around £ 4.70 before Brexit, would now cost between £ 7 and £ 8.
Stephen, 70, says he will now think twice before buying from them because the deals are no better than his local grocery store.
Has the VAT changed?
New rules introduced on January 1 change the way VAT is collected on purchases in the EU.
For those over £ 135, the tax is now collected at the point of delivery, rather than the point of sale.
VAT used to be included with the online checkout, but now customers are asked to pay for it at the door – which can be an unexpected cost.
For goods under £ 135, the changes will affect EU retailers with UK sales of less than £ 70,000 per year. Previously, these companies paid VAT in their own country, but now they have to register for VAT in the UK.
But some companies are still unaware of the rules and shoppers have reported paying VAT twice, at the point of sale and delivery. HMRC maintains that these demands were wrongly made by the couriers.
Online marketplaces such as Amazon or eBay take care of the VAT.
The government says the new rules will ensure that goods from EU and non-EU countries are “treated the same way” and that UK businesses are “not disadvantaged by competition from VAT-free imports.”
VAT change: For purchases over £ 135 tax is now collected at the point of delivery, instead of the point of sale
How about customs duties?
Before Brexit, goods could move freely between the UK and the EU without import taxes.
Now for goods costing more than £ 135, customs duties can apply which can range from 0 percent to 25 percent.
And any extras?
Couriers have begun to charge additional ‘handling fees’ to shoppers to cover handling fees and additional customs checks.
Royal Mail, for example, charges £ 8. DHL charges 2.5 percent of the amount paid at customs with a minimum fee of £ 11.
Your rights in brief
Through ADAM FRENCH, consumer rights expert at Which?
- Online retailers must clarify whether they are based in the EU or import your goods from the EU and whether they will collect VAT as part of the price. You may need to review the terms and conditions or contact them to double check.
- You can also check your receipt to see if it lists both the price of the item and the VAT.
- If you can prove that you’ve already paid VAT and the delivery company requires you to pay it again, you can reject the package. You do not have to pay VAT twice.
- You are covered by consumer contract regulations and you should be entitled to a refund if you bought something from a UK or EU store, even if you refuse to accept the package.
Mastercard also imposes a fivefold increase in fees on Britons who buy from EU retailers with a credit or debit card.
It will likely drive up the price of anything bought online, from a pair of Italian shoes to vacation expenses such as hotel stays or car rentals and amusement park tickets.
The fee is imposed on EU companies and it is up to them to decide how to pass it on. Interchange fees are capped by the EU in the Member States, but this protection no longer applies to the UK.
Is this fair?
Consumer experts have warned that when billing administration fees as a percentage, they rarely reflect the extra work. Credit card charges can be outrageous, but banks are expected to pocket the increase.
Shoppers are also angry that companies are not open about the new rates, which make purchases unaffordable.
Miss Farrar says: ‘European companies really need to consider their British customers after Brexit.
“They have to be transparent about the extra costs and not try to hide them in the fine print, otherwise the repercussions will be detrimental to future business and harmful to the modest consumer.”
What about the alcohol?
Retailers have warned that a £ 12 bottle of wine bought in the EU can cost up to £ 1.50 extra.
How have companies responded?
Some specialist EU retailers have said they will no longer deliver to the UK due to the changes.
Experts predict that the situation will improve in the coming months as more retailers in the EU register with the tax authorities.
Are fraudsters cashing in?
Internet and cell phone providers warn customers that scammers will take advantage of the confusion. Some customers have already reported untrustworthy text messages and emails about customs charges.
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