Brexit: Why is Online Shopping More Expensive?

Now that we’re post-Brexit, online shopping rules have changed. If the products you’ve ordered are arriving from the EU, you may find that you’ll have to pay extra to receive them.

Additional costs may be added at the online checkout, or you may even be asked to pay extra when the courier delivers your goods to your doorstep.

In this guide, we’ll let you know what fees you can expect and if there are any you can avoid.


The way value-added tax (VAT) is applied has changed

Even before Brexit you would have paid VAT on EU goods. However, the way it is applied has changed since Brexit. 

Before January 1st 2021, you would have paid the local VAT rate. In the post-Brexit world, the UK VAT rate (20%) will be applied. This can make it seem that some products you’ve bought previously have got more expensive.



I’m spending under £135 on something from the EU, what do I need to know?

If the cost of your total order (not including international delivery fees and taxes) is £135 or under, you shouldn’t need to pay any additional charges. 

The VAT is included in the price you pay for your online shopping, and there won’t be any customs duty added.


What if I’m spending over £135?

If you’re spending a little more on your online shopping, you’ll need to pay the import VAT at the point of delivery on items that cost more than £135. VAT will not be added to these products at the online checkout. 

The courier company will ask you to pay this before the parcel is handed over. 

Crucially, you’ll need to bear in mind that you’ll pay VAT on the total cost of delivering your online shopping to the UK. That means 20% will be added to the total consignment value of your shopping - the value of the item, as well as international shipping costs and customs duty.

Customs duty will apply over £135 too, which can be around 10-12% of the price of the items if you’re buying a new handbag or (another) pair of shoes. 

However, the cost of customs duty can vary significantly. It may be calculated as a percentage of the value of the order, the weight of the item, or a combination of the two.

The ‘rules of origin’ agreement will also determine whether you will need to pay customs duty or not. You can find out more about these charges here.

You’ll also need to pay a Courier Handling Fee, which can be between £6 and £12. This cost covers the additional paperwork that couriers will need to undertake to facilitate international deliveries. These charges should be made clear on the retailer’s website.

The cost of your online shopping from the EU may be subject to additional costs which may result in a significant increase in your overall total. 



What if I want to send things back?

If you’re shopping online for clothes, in particular, it’s quite common to order more than one size so you can try them on at home. But what happens when you want to return these items?

Even if you’re buying goods from the EU, you’re still entitled to send them back within 14 days if you decide to. 

Unless the retailer you bought from offers free delivery, you may need to cover the expense of sending the things back yourself, but you can reclaim import VAT and customs duties by completing a C285 form.

However, you won’t be able to reclaim the courier’s admin charge.



What happens if I’m buying from a marketplace like Amazon or eBay?

You might find that the cost of buying products from marketplaces like Amazon and eBay has gone up, or seems to increase when you put a UK delivery address in. 

This is because all small sellers need to charge UK VAT at 20% when they list their products.

If you’re buying products that cost over £135, you should also check whether your item is coming from the EU. If it is, you’ll be liable for the extra charges when your items are delivered.

Although sellers should clearly indicate when an item is despatched from overseas, they won’t necessarily inform you of additional charges at the point of purchase.



If you're looking to save time on international shipping, get a quick quote today to see how much you could save. Additionally, find our Brexit updates page to keep up-to-date with any news or delays regarding shipping to the EU.

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