Brexit, taxes and shipping could all end up costing you more than you think
Black Friday lands this week, and, if you miss it, there’s always Cyber Monday on the 28th.
I’m not sure when either of these became a ‘thing’, but I do know that not every bargain is all it’s cracked up to be.
This year there is a lot to consider before you commit your money to a deal online.
Everyone’s minding their cents and it makes sense to know what you’re buying and crucially, where you’re buying it from.
Both shopping days now apply to everything from furniture to clothes but the bigger focus has always been on tech.
Electronic devices account for over a third of all buys according to research. New laptops, tablets and mobiles top the list, however shoppers will find it extremely difficult to find any discount on new, top-of-the-range products.
There’s no incentive for Apple or Samsung to save you money on the latest model phone. If they don’t take off, there’s a better chance of getting a bargain in the New Year sales.
But if you’re happy enough with last year’s model, or indeed, want to shop early for Christmas, than it’s probable you’ll pick up a deal.
Sign up to your favourite store’s app or via email to get alerts (I always delete these on Saturday), and you can get good deals from TV and broadband suppliers if you keep your eye out.
If you’re buying gadgets make sure of the model and capacity and that the version is exactly what you need.
If an online offer shows ‘€100 off’, can you be sure?
You’ll also find heavy discounts on booking summer holidays now as travel agents scramble to get bed nights sold for 2023.
Doing your homework is really important. If something is splashed with a 20pc off label – how do you know? If an online offer shows ‘€100 off’, can you be sure?
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) says that around 40pc of consumers plan to buy something on Black Friday with the average spend €400 – 81pc will research in advance, which is great and highest among older age groups, where perhaps they are less likely to purchase on impulse anyway.
There are customer and advertising rules in place under the ‘Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980’ and EU legislation, but you’ll find them difficult to enforce outside of faulty or damaged goods. The best bet is to check now for the actual price in store or online of items you want, and then check back on Friday when offers drop.
Needless to say, if you don’t need it, didn’t plan for it or have to borrow for it, it’s never a bargain.
This year, more than ever, it matters where you buy from. In Ireland and the EU you have very strong rights, but Brexit’s implementation means you may have none at all from UK retailers (see below).
Grainne Griffin, CCPC Director of Communications says: “Consumers who are planning on purchasing have stronger consumer rights when they buy from an EU website and a ‘.ie’ domain is not a guarantee that a company is based in Ireland.”
Instead, look for the physical address for the business, or where orders are shipped from – usually in the ‘deliveries’ tab or in terms and conditions. While you’re there, check the returns policy and costs of shipping.
If the site is outside the EU, you could unwittingly invite extra charges, duties and taxes not to mention a world of pain if you need to return something.
Although Ireland (and the EU) and Britain have a trade agreement in place since Brexit, some of the terms changed since last year.
Vat is now applied on the total value of goods along with possible import charges, which vary by item.
You can check if the supplier has included Irish Vat in the final cart price. If not, you can be landed with a bill from An Post, or the courier company. Northern Ireland is excepted.
Vat in Ireland is typically 23pc on most goods. It has to be paid irrespective of whether you have already paid UK Vat (usually a lower 20pc) and you may have to apply to the supplier for a refund of this.
I’ve heard of so many people still getting stuffed with this rule, and when they get a communication from the delivery firm, they think it’s a scam. They don’t reply, the postie won't deliver and emails ensue.
If the item is not made in the UK (even if it has been shipped from there), you could be charged customs duties.
Where I find people are coming a cropper is the definition of ‘madein’. It means that most of the product’s components (over 50pc) must be physically manufactured in Britain.
For example, if a tablet on sale from a British shop but actually made in China is shipped to you, Revenue deems it to originate from China. That incurs customs duties – and possibly countervailing taxes too.
UK companies do not have to abide by our consumer protection laws either and many do not. This makes returns and dispute resolution more difficult.
While ‘gestures of goodwill’ may be offered on websites, there’s no way to enforce them.
Buyer’s remorse could be very real next weekend.
You realise that Grandad probably won’t even be able to turn on the new revolving digi-photo frame you bought him, never mind upload to it.
The festive red jumper won’t suit your sister and you already hate your new shoes and they haven’t even arrived yet.
The good news is that returns are easy and fully covered under consumer protection codes, but only within the EU. You can return any item bought online, within 14 days of receiving it, without having to give a reason. While you’ll get a full refund, a retailer can force you to pay for the postage to get it back.
There are exceptions to the rule, including any personalised or perishable goods, tickets or subscriptions and digital content.
You have no right of return on private sales via eBay or Donedeal, unless expressly noted.
Returns to British companies are not straightforward.
While some allow them under EU terms, others do not. Amazon is good in this regard, but some shops which don’t have an Irish street presence are terrible. They don’t have to accept returns at all. If they do, it means in addition to paying for shipping back, you might have to apply separately for a Vat refund.
Always keep proof that you returned the item, so you might have to pay for registered or tracked postage.