Buying overseas goods
Going abroad to shop, buying stuff via foreign websites and mail order companies. It’s all changed a bit since Brexit, so here’s how to shop sensibly when you’re buying goods from overseas.
Before you buy overseas goods
Get their details: If something goes wrong later, you’ll need to get in touch with the seller, so get an email, address or telephone number before handing your money over when buying overseas goods.
Know what you’re buying: Ask any questions about how the product works now and make sure you have read (and kept) a copy of the terms and conditions.
Using your credit card: If you use your credit card to buy something over £100, the company that provided the credit is likely to be equally liable for any breach of contract. This means that if the goods are faulty, you may be able to claim your money back from the credit card company. This refund protection comes from section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act and it still applies despite Brexit.
Beware of hidden costs: These often mount up through sneaky currency conversion charges, taxes and insurance. Be particularly cautious of delivery fees, packaging and posting if your goods are being sent to you as there may be charges at the post office when you collect them. You could also be liable for postage charges if the items are returned.
Check to see if you have to pay any tariffs: The UK Global Tariff (UKGT) applies to all goods imported into Britain unless the country in question has a trade agreement with the UK. The GOV.UK website is the best place to see if this applies to you and your purchase. Since Brexit you’re likely to need to pay additional fees on anything shipped from Europe.
Check delivery dates: Your mum may want a few words if her birthday present doesn’t arrive on time, but there’s still no guarantee it will actually turn up. Since Brexit, you should always check the terms of consumer protection offered by the seller and the seller’s EU country to see if the level of protection is different from the UK’s. Check what governing law applies, as you won’t be protected in the same way as if you bought the same item in the UK.
Is it guaranteed? Check that your goods have warranties or guarantees, what they cover and how long they last. Again, this will depend on the laws in the country you’re purchasing the item from. If you have to ship an item back to another country, shipping costs may not be covered by the seller.
What does the law say about buying overseas goods?
The good news is that when buying goods from overseas, in addition to your UK statutory rights you are also covered under the rights of the country where the seller is based if:
- The product or service was advertised in the UK and you signed a contract here. So it’s perfectly safe to buy clothes from an Italian mail order company if you saw – and responded – to their advert in the UK
- The seller received your order while they were in the UK
- You bought goods during an excursion arranged by the seller. Going on a wine-tasting trip organised by the wine seller? Buy as much cheap French wine as you like!
Buying from an overseas website
Buying from an overseas website will not necessarily mean that you are covered by UK law as this has not been tested in the courts to date. However, if, for example, a German website offers English translation and shows the price in sterling and euros, you should be OK because it is obviously aiming at a UK market.
Solving your problem
If that sleek new German stereo suddenly starts coughing and spluttering, take the following steps straight away:
- Stop using it
- Dig out your documents – a credit card statement, till receipt or order confirmation are all fine.
- Contact the seller or credit card company (if applicable) by letter or email, explaining the problem and whether you expect a refund, replacement, repair or compensation. Enclose copies of your proof of purchase or service agreement
- If you are not happy with the response, write again repeating your complaint and giving them 21 days to resolve the problem, after which you will be seeking legal action. Send all correspondence by recorded delivery and keep copies for future reference.
- Dangerous goods should be reported to your local Trading Standards Department
Unfortunately If the seller or credit card company refuses to help or makes an offer you aren’t happy with, in the post Brexit world it’s unlikely you’ll be able to enforce your legal rights in the EU via UK courts, so be careful!
- Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
By Holly Turner
Updated on 27-Jun-2021
Photo of girl on laptop by Shutterstock
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