Amazon has warned its Irish based customers of potential post-Brexit charges on purchases from next month.
The online retailer emailed customers on Tuesday to flag changes for those who use its Amazon.co.uk site but who have addresses in EU countries.
It is an early indicator of the uncertainty that faces post-Brexit commerce between Britain and the EU as negotiations to reach some kind of deal stumble on in London.
“We wanted to let you know that from 1 January 2021, when the Brexit transition period ends, you’ll see some changes when you shop on Amazon.co.uk and select an EU delivery address,” it told those with an Amazon account.
Although uncertain, the changes it mentions are related to value added tax (VAT), or a regional equivalent, due in the country of delivery. Packages may also be subject to customs duties, taxes and import fees, it said, adding that such changes “may result in a price change at checkout”.
Dermott Jewell, policy advisor at the Consumer Association of Ireland (CAI) said the move comes as little surprise.
"We have been flagging that for a while - [EU delivery addresses will] become what's known as third countries; it's like buying from America or China, " he said.
According to Mr Jewell, if a package is worth in excess of €22, including packaging, it will attract Vat charges and if it is more than €150, duty would apply at a rate of 12 per cent. Amazon did not comment regarding how charges might apply specifically to its Irish customers.
While the exact nature of charges for online shopping between Ireland and the UK remains a point of some confusion, the potential issue has been flagged in the aftermath of the UK referendum.
“It has to apply because it’s a Revenue rule, it was always going to apply,” Mr Jewell said.
However, he said the email appears to show an effort on the part of the company to “soften the blow” by honouring existing EU-based consumer rights that will also be thrown into doubt by the UK’s departure.
Amazon said it would continue to accept eligible returns and where they are as result of an error such as defective, damaged or incorrect items, it would shoulder the cost.
Otherwise, costs incurred for returns including transport and any import or customs fees would fall to the customer, it said.
One possible alternative is to use the retail giant’s German website instead (.de). Last year, with exactly this Brexit scenario in mind, the website MoneyGuideIreland.com pointed out that it is possible to view that site in English. However, then at least, the German site did not offer free delivery to Ireland.
Last year, then European affairs minister Helen McEntee, warned of a potential shakeup to existing online shopping norms.
She said goods bought online could attract Vat and import duty, depending on their value, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.