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5 March 2021

How will Brexit affect my consumer rights?

What leaving the EU means for your consumer rights when you buy or sell goods and services or travel abroad.
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Which?Editorial team

How does Brexit change our consumer rights?

Even though many of your consumer rights are based on EU directives, most have been incorporated into UK law.

This means many of your consumer rights will stay the same after we’ve left the EU, unless they are overhauled by Parliament in the future.

Caution

Watch out for Brexit scammers

Fraudsters might take advantage of the confusion around Brexit to trick people into sending them money.

Watch out for these Brexit scams which might be used before, during and after the UK's departure from the EU.

Shopping in the EU after Brexit

Your consumer rights when shopping online are unchanged, but it is unlikely you will be able to enforce your rights in the EU via UK courts. 

Online shoppers or holiday makers who buy items from the EU that cost more than £135 may have to pay customs duties. 

VAT and handling fees could also apply and parcels might be held in post offices until all duties and fees have been paid. 

Royal Mail says: ‘For items under £135 (with the exception of gifts), VAT will be collected directly when you buy the goods online. For goods with a value over £135 (and gifts over £39), Royal Mail may collect the VAT and customs duties from the customer prior to delivery. These charges are applied on behalf of HM Revenue & Customs.’ 

Any parcels containing goods or gifts sent from England, Scotland or Wales to the EU should have a customs declaration form attached to it. 

The customs label came into effect on 1 January, The type of customs form you will have to complete will depend on the contents and value of your parcel

You will be required to write your name, surname and address, a clear description of the contents and whether it is a gift, sold or returned goods, among other things. 

If you're posting a parcel from Northern Ireland to the EU you will not need to attach a customs declaration form, though one will still be necessary for parcels going to non-EU destinations.

When you shop online, read the terms and conditions to see what governing law applies, as you won't be protected in the same way as if you bought from a UK retailer. If you're buying from a marketplace, be aware that sellers can be from all over the world. 

Card surcharges after Brexit

You’re still able to use your Mastercard or Visa debit and credit cards when you buy goods and services from retailers based in the EU. However, Mastercard has announced that from October 2021 it will increase its charges for UK credit and debit card purchases from EU-based merchants. The fee will increase from 0.3% to 1.5% for credit cards and 0.2% to 1.15% for debit cards.

What will be the new rules for planes, trains and package holidays? 

You continue to get enhanced rights in respect of airline and travel company insolvency (including repatriation) and proper performance of a contract if you book a package holiday. 

These rights will apply even if the business concerned is EU-based, as long as it targets UK consumers.

Train travel (including Eurostar)

Your rights as a rail passenger on domestic rail services (and the UK section of Eurostar or other cross-border services) will continue to be protected by current UK law which incorporates EU regulation on rail passengers’ rights, for now. 

When travelling in the EU, you will be protected by EU law on rail passengers’ rights as before.

Flight Rights

In the event of a qualifying delay or cancellation, you will be eligible for rerouting or a refund if you are departing from a UK or EU airport, or from a non-UK/EU airport and flying into an UK/EU airport on a 'community carrier' (an airline with its headquarters and main place of business within the UK or EU). 

If you are travelling with a non-EU based airline flying from a non-EU destination, the airline does not have the same duties.  

The UK government has replicated these rules to continue to provide equivalent protection in respect of UK carriers and flights from UK airports. 

Airlines might try to claim that they are not liable for flight delays or cancellations that relate to ‘extraordinary circumstances’ because of the UK’s exit from the EU but they should not succeed unless they have taken all reasonable measures to deal with such circumstances, if possible.

What are the rules if I want to drive in the EU?

You need to be aware of the following if you plan to drive in the EU.

Driving licenceYou do not need an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in the EU, but you must display GB plates when driving in the EU.
Car insurance

If you take your vehicle from the UK to drive in the EU from 1 January 2021 onwards you will require a Green Card and must carry it in your vehicle.

A Green Card is an international certificate of insurance which proves that your UK motor insurance policy provides you with the minimum compulsory insurance cover required by the law of the country you are visiting.  

Insurers will issue a Green Card at no extra cost but you must contact them in advance, and you should also check that your policy covers driving in the EU.

Accidents in the EU

If you are a UK resident involved in a road traffic accident in an EU country from 1 January 2021 you should not expect to be able to make a claim in respect of that accident via a UK-based Claims Representative or the UK Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB).

Instead, you may need to bring a claim against either the driver or the insurer of the vehicle in the EU country where the accident happened.

This is likely to involve obtaining specialist legal advice and bringing the claim in the local language. In the event of an accident in an EU country caused by an uninsured or an untraced driver, UK residents may not be entitled to receive compensation.

The law will vary from country to country.

What are the rules for taking my pet into the EU? 

You need to contact your vet at least four months before you plan to travel. 

The rules for taking your pet dog, cat or ferret to any EU country will change from 1 January 2021 and ‘pet passports’ for travel to the EU will no longer be valid, including for assistance dogs. 

Unless the UK is placed on the EU register of ‘listed’ countries, you will need to take the following steps:

  • Your pet must be microchipped and then vaccinated against rabies before it can travel.
  • Your pet must have a blood sample taken at least 30 days after the rabies vaccination. You will need to talk to your vet about whether you need a rabies vaccination or booster before this test.
  • Your vet must send the blood sample to an EU-approved blood testing laboratory. The results of the blood test must show that the vaccination was successful, which means that your pet must have a rabies antibody level of at least 0.5 IU/ml.
  • You must wait three months from the date the successful blood sample was taken before you travel.
  • You must take your pet to an Official Veterinarian, no more than 10 days before travel to get a health certificate.

Key Information

Future trade deals and you 

The UK is at a pivotal moment that will decide how we all live – and how well.

Trade deals negotiated between the UK and other global nations will decide what products and services you can buy and their quality and cost - from the food we eat to the safety of products in our homes.

It could also determine whether you’re protected if something goes wrong, how you travel and take holidays, and how your data is protected and shared.

Find out how Which? wants the government to champion British consumers when negotiating new trade deals.


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