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It's Cyber Monday - but are you any better off avoiding the shops and hitting the internet?

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Online shopping is just too easy

Online shopping is just too easy

Online shopping can be full of pitfalls for the unwary

Online shopping can be full of pitfalls for the unwary

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Online shopping is just too easy

Today is the year’s busiest day for e-commerce, so-called ‘Cyber Monday’. 

Visa alone expects to process 1m transactions by Irish customers for €22m – up 17pc from last year. In December, there will be 7m debit and credit card usages alone.

But is shopping online all it’s cracked up to be?

Apart from the convenience of having it delivered to your door, for which there’s a lot to be said given the scrum in shopping centres, are there actually savings to be had?

As ever, it depends on what you’re buying, and where.

If you’re purchasing toys for instance, there’s not a huge difference, especially when you take shipping costs into account. 

High-end branded goods are generally the same price all over – for example a bottle of Jo Malone perfume retails for the same price in Brown Thomas here as it does in the UK or the USA (note to gentlemen shoppers – it’s the equivalent of €102). 

Same with designer bags, for the most part. You could even end up spending more online if you get a poor exchange rate on the day. 

The table above shows the cost of some popular Christmas items bought in Ireland and the UK.

You’ll spot immediately that the biggest savings are on booze. 

Ireland has second highest excise duty on alcohol in the EU. Indeed, some 15 of the 28 member states have none at all. And it is double for sparkling wine and champagne than it is for table wine. 

Indeed, an astonishing 85pc of the cost of a €12 bottle of sparkling wine goes to Revenue, meaning the actual value of the product is very low. 

For whiskey, 73pc goes in taxes while €10 spent on your favourite white or red tipple sees 58pc heading to the tax man. He’s set to have a very merry Christmas!

So it’s no surprise that so many people head “up North” when it comes to stocking up with booze.

Maybe not in Celtic Tiger numbers, but they still go.

The exchange rate is stable at around €1.25 to the pound but that still poses a problem for retailers pricing for markets on both sides of the border.

High street stores like Next, Monsoon and Tesco have to set euro prices which don’t leave them at a loss, but discourage shoppers from crossing the border. 

They don’t always succeed, especially as they’re pricing goods months ahead of sale without knowing interest rate fluctuations. 

I’d prefer if these British chains kept the prices in sterling and scanned them at the checkout for the actual exchange rate on the day.

If you are shopping online today, there’s a number of things you should bear in mind:

* Know the exchange rate. Some sites let you shop in euro directly – are you better off opting for these?

If there are shipping/delivery costs exchange these too! What is the returns policy? Will the item arrive in time?

* Outside the EU you have VAT (23pc) and excise to add. Items under €150 are normally customs-free but after that you’ll pay. VAT is chargeable on anything over €22.

An Post and private delivery firms are not allowed to hand over goods without collecting this.

Excise is different for every item and from every country, so do your homework in advance. www.Revenue.ie has details, digging for information here could save you money.

* Insurance costs may be mandatory – make sure you know if you have to pay for them.  

* If buying goods from parts of Asia, there may be an additional “countervailing” duty – it’s there to avoid counterfeit goods.

A new bicycle for example, will carry a charge of 48.5pc on top of the purchase price.


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