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Brexit: tell us your consumer concerns

Leaving the EU will create a number of changes for consumers in the UK. Politics aside, which subjects can we help you with?

24/12/2020: A deal has been announced

It has been announced that a trade deal between the UK and the EU has been agreed. We’re now looking through the many pages of the agreement to see whether it works for consumers, and how it might affect you.

As you can imagine, thousands of pages of dense legal text takes some time, so be sure to check back throughout the week after Christmas for updates.

6/11/2020: Original post

From the first of January 2021, the UK’s transition period will end.  The politics of the situation aside, this new arrangement is likely to mean a fair few changes to us as consumers, including how we shop, travel, trade with other nations, and more. 

With coronavirus very much a concern on people’s minds, the end of the transition period has almost taken a back seat. 

As the new year approaches and with so many details yet to be confirmed, we want to hear what practical issues Which? might be able to help with.

What are you most concerned about right now?
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Brexit Q&A

Ask us your questions in the comments – we’ll update the answers here as we’re able to do so.

Jump ahead to the comments

If there’s a question someone’s asked that you’d also like to see answered, please give it a thumbs up! (NB you’ll need to be logged in to do so). We’ll use these to prioritise with our research teams.

Please be aware there are some questions on this we won’t be able to answer, particularly in relation to the politics of the situation.

Jump ahead to:

Cars | Consumer Rights | Food and Food Standards | Healthcare | Money | Sustainability | Trade | Travel

(Click or tap to expand or hide each question)

Cars

What will happen to car prices after Brexit?

Car manufacturers have indicated that prices may rise in the event of a no-deal Brexit. If you’re buying a car, you may want to complete the transaction as soon as possible.

Find out what manufacturers have said, and how much extra you might pay

How can I take my car to Europe?

In the event of a no-deal Brexit consumers would need an international driving permit. These can be purchased in person from a post office, but not online. Currently just three in 10 post offices offer an IDP service.

In a no-deal scenario you will also require a Green Card to take your vehicle outside of the UK.

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 country you’re visiting. You need to contact your insurance company in advance to obtain this card.

See our full guide on driving in the EU after Brexit

Find out more about International Driving Permits and Green Cards

Consumer Rights

Will Section 75 protection still work if I’ve bought from the EU?

Section 75 still will apply for qualifying credit card purchases where there has been a breach of contract or a misrepresentation – even if this is from an EU trader.

This means that if you buy a product or service worth between £100 – £30,000 with your credit card and it’s not delivered, you can claim the money back from your card provider.

Find out more about Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act

Will I still be able to shop online with EU retailers?

Yes, but you may find it tougher to resolve problems in the event of a dispute.

Read more about how travel, shopping, and your money could change in the event no deal is reached

Food and Food Standards

What will happen to food prices after we leave the EU?

Which? analysis has shown that the tariffs set to be imposed on a range of popular groceries could lead to price rises in event of a no-deal Brexit.

Read more about how food prices could rise under a no deal Brexit

What will happen to our food standards after we leave the EU?

Trade deals with the US and other countries could see our high standards torn up. While the government made a manifesto commitment to uphold food safety and animal welfare, we’d like to see these protections enshrined in the law. 

Read the latest on protecting UK food standards

Find out more about how UK food standards compare to the rest of the world

Save our food standards: Sign our petition


Want to talk about this? Join our conversation

Healthcare

Will I be able to use my EHIC after Brexit?

The government has said that European Health Insurance Cards will expire on 31 December 2020. As things stand, UK nationals visiting EU countries will have to pay full price for any medical treatment.

Read more about EHICs and medical coverage after Brexit
Want to discuss? Join our earlier conversation

Money

What will Brexit mean for house prices?

We’ve spoken to experts from across the housing sector to get their predictions for the coming months.

Read more about house prices after Brexit

What will happen to the value of my pension?

The state pension will rise by up to £229 in 2021 thanks to the triple lock guarantee.

What happens to my bank account?

An increasing number of British citizens living in EU countries are being told their UK bank accounts will be closed after the Brexit withdrawal period ends.

Read more about how more UK banks confirm Brexit account closures

What about interest rates?

The Bank of England are confirmed to be actively considering the impact if the base rate were to fall to 0% or into negative figures.

Find out what this means for you

Sustainability

Will the environment be a higher priority after Brexit?

The government has asked consumers for their views on post-Brexit climate-friendly standards for electronics which, if introduced, could help consumers’ energy bills and reduce carbon emissions.

Read more about ambitious new post-Brexit energy standards

Trade

What’s the latest on trade deals?

Which? is scrutinising every deal to make sure that consumers are put first in each round of negotiations.

Find out more on Trade deals and our future

Travel

What do I need to know about travelling to Europe after Brexit?

In a nutshell: 

  • Make sure your passport is valid for at least the next six months
  • Take out travel insurance that covers Brexit-related disruptions
  • If driving, make sure you have an international driving permit and a green card (if driving your own car)

There’s a lot more, so be sure to read our full guide on Travel after Brexit.

Will I have to pay roaming charges on my mobile phone?

Including free roaming in trade deal negotiations could save UK holidaymakers significant amounts of money.

The latest information on where there are extra costs for using your phone can be read here.

Comments

If I buy from a European Amazon as I do on occasion as they can be much cheaper than the UK site am I going to hit with import duty and what price spend would it start on.

Why has the UK government neglected to continue the mutual ban on mobile roaming surcharges between the UK and EU with effect from 1st January 2021? This is one of the most popular pieces of EU legislation, even amongst those who support Brexit. If the existing mutual regulation of wholesale roaming charges is continued, then there is no reason why the mutual ban on retail roaming surcharges could not be continued.

Whether or not UK providers continue to charge domestic prices for roaming in the EEA is not my point. My point is only about whether the statutory obligation to do so should continue.

I am also concerned about import duty and VAT on items purchased from EU sellers.
Especially items now in limbo due to postal system cancellations from Germany and Italy due to Covid.
Will items purchased prior to 31/12/2020 and stuck in-transit be taxed to hell when they finally arrive in 2021?????

“Some tech companies are already porting their UK customers to be served under US data privacy laws rather than more restrictive EU ones”

from

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-55494101

Can anyone say who these companies are?

Does it include Yahoo and Google?

Hey guys, just dropping this in here in case you fancied watching it. The BBC’s Ben Bland put viewers’ questions about Brexit changes to Adam French, senior consumer-rights editor at Which?, and Martijn Witvliet, from the European Consumer Centre.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-europe-55535284

I watched this at the time. The issues raised seemed to be no surprise and unlikely to affect most people.

Here’s a relevant story from the BBC:-https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-55734277

This would seem to be just the same as personal imports from anywhere else in the world and a known result of leaving the EU.

I agree. This was well flagged-up as a consequence of leaving the single market. We can’t have it both ways.

Some people grudgingly accept the customs charges and/or taxes imposed on imports but resent the fees due to the carriers for collection and remittance of them to HMRC. Such transactions require time and administration both of which cost companies money for no profit.

I think it is good that the Government have acted to restrict tax avoidance by GB consumers if they shop mail order anywhere overseas.

But I’m still waiting to see if the Government will do any to combat tax avoidance by large multinationals.

Some consumers may also find that these new arrangements now restrict their available choices as Internet shoppers. I’ve seen several recent examples of both US and EU firms that will no longer directly supply UK consumers, because the new rules require too much effort for little return on their part.

It would be interesting to see what essential items are involved that cannot be purchased through a normal retail channel.

Malcolm, I expect that the majority of GB consumers will still be able to buy what they need.

But I cannot help but think that reducing consumer choice and increasing prices are anything but disbenefits of Brexit.

Is it not worth encouraging people to support the economy of the country they live in rather than importing goods? Our choice of UK-made goods may be limited but at least we could buy from companies based in the UK or ones with UK divisions and employ our citizens.

Yes. I’d like to see a popular move towards this. Good for the economy and good for jobs. Maybe Which? could promote decent UK made products in their news items and reviews.
I don’t remember seeing anything essential when people complained about the extra costs of importing goods from the USA but I may have missed them.

Personally, I am all in favour of buying from GB firms whenever I can.

But sometimes, specialist items are not available at competitive prices or even at all from GB suppliers.

Pre-Brexit, one example was a replacement UK style keyboard for a Acer laptop that I was repairing. The nearest supllier to me was in Poland. Once ordered, their product reached me very swiftly, faster than the typical speed from UK suppliers.

For me, the cost of essential spares does affect the sustainability of items. I do like to be able to repair items, but only if I can obtain spares at sensible prices.

In the past, I have come across quite a few who have made personal imports from the USA “because of rip off Britain”. In such cases, UK prices in pounds were often the same as USA prices in dollars and a strong pound favoured the economics of such trades.

As far as I know the only item I have bought directly from a foreign seller was a spare part for a generator belonging to a charity I’m a member of. It cost £4.60 from a Chinese seller. Had I bought the part from a UK source it would have cost between four and five times as much. There are limits.

I take Derek’s point about sustainability and in the case I have referred to the cost of the spare part from the UK seller would be almost as much as our society had paid for the generator, which is old but is now in good working order. The alternative would have been to scrap it.

Well, according to the “leaked” document, it looks as though many of the fears about post-Brexit privatisation of more parts of the NHS, and selling them off to US big business, may not now happen. If so, all to the good.

The NHS is a huge spender on equipment, supplies and provisions. I should like to think that there is a big enough market there to enable UK industry to produce most of its requirements and avoid outsourcing from far away places. Let the construction of forty new hospitals [or whatever the latest number is] be the opportunity for decent-sized contracts that give our own companies the incentive to develop apparatus and products that meet the needs of the service at an economical price. This will boost the economy and also open up export opportunities around the world. We might have to be dependent on foreign supplies of many pharmaceuticals because it is a rarefied market with lots of restrictive licensing protocols, but our scientists and home manufacturers are world-renowned in innovation and high-quality production lacking only the scale to compete against other producers globally. Outside pharmaceuticals, there is an enormous range of requirements in hospitals, laboratories and other health establishments for everyday and specialist material and we should ensure this purchasing power benefits our own economy first.

Hi,
I am interested in finding out what the situation is with regard to taking personal belongings on holiday to an EU country. I am hoping to travel by car to France this August (Covid permitting). I intend to take scuba diving equipment with me for cave diving in the Dordogne region (something I have done regularly in the past). The equipment is owned personlly by me and was purchased in the UK, some of it quite recently. The total value of this equipment is around £8,000. I have tried to find out what the VAT / taxes situation is with regard to crossing the UK/France border but I can find absolutely nothing in terms of guidance for this particular situation either on the Government website or elsewhere. I guess I could be hit with a VAT bill going into France and another VAT bill coming back to the UK, which would clearly be ridiculous. I am sure there will be many cases of holidaymakers taking personal belongings to the EU post-Brexit. I thought maybe there caravaning community would have some guidance via various websites (after all, they may have to pay VAT on a touring caravan which could be worth £20k!) but I have not yet been able to find any guidance at all.
Can you help?
Thanks,
Andy W

I am not clear why you would expect VAT to be levied at all on personal possessions. It never happened to me in non- EU countries. You don’t expect to pay vat on your clothing, car, camera etc. Have I missed something?

Hi Malcolm r,
Have you taken high-value personal belongings with you to an EU country since 1st January 2021? I guess not given the current restrictions on travel. The UK Government guidance states that VAT will be charged on goods (above a value of a few hundred quid, I forget the exact figure) purchased in the EU when returning to the UK but how will they differentiate between what I brought with me and what I may have purchased in France? The same applies when entering France. It could be chaos!

Hi again Malcolm,
Cars / vehicles (but I guess not trailers, caravans, boats etc) are OK if they are registered in the UK, you take your registration (or equivalent proof of ownership) with you, and you stay in the EU for no more than 6 months.

If they are high-priced items, you will have receipts showing when and where they were purchased.

Or you could take photos of them at your home to prove you owned them in the UK.

Can’t see what the problem is and no different than the rest of the world.

No. I was interested in the principle, since travellers have often taken fairly high value goods abroad – cameras, for example. I presume the safe way is to ensure you have proof of purchase to avoid any imposition of vat (and duty).

Conventional wisdom would suggest that having receipts for high-value personal belongings should be sufficient. The operative word here is “should”. There is no government guidance on this so holidaymakers will be at the mercy of the vrious border officials. It is important because the difference here (compared with travelling on holiday to non-EU destinations which will usually be by air and so the amount of belongings you can take is limited) is that you can take your car or van to France and other EU countries with a large quantity of personal belongings – mountain bikes, scuba gear, skiing gear, canoes, speed boat, touring caravan! This, together with evidence that the EU and UK border officials don’t really know what to do in cases like this, could lead to a very undesirable situation for holidaymakers in the potentially near future.
The bottom line is that our Government needs to publish advice and to do so in consultation with the EU so that everyone including the relevant border officials know what to do.

Em says:
6 April 2021

It is not the responsibility of the UK Govt to provide advice on how foreign governments choose to operate import/export controls.

If you travel to India for instance, it is important to carry proof of purchase/ownership for high value items like laptops or you may get hit with import duties. Also you cannot import or export Indian currency (Rupees). You need to check the local regs.

I’ve never had a problem with import/export of personal items to France, even pre-EU. But if your gear is worth that much, take a copy of the purchase receipts with you. If stolen, it is a condition of travel insurance that you report it to the local police within 24 hours and get a police report. Having the receipts could save you a lot of time.

Hi Em,
We don’t have a trade deal with India but we do with the EU so it is our Government’s responsibility to provide guidance. It is also very clearly our Government’s responsibility to provide guidance on what to do when returning to the UK from the EU with personal belongings so people know what they need to present to YK border officials. Like you, I have never had a problem with taking stuff to / from France in the past but things are different now as we are not in the EU and we are not part of the EU Customs Union.
Having receipts for personal belongings is always a good idea but we do not currently know if this alone will be sufficient for both the French and the UK border officials when going on holiday to France. We need to know.

BEWARE Sent Documents to EU (Bulgaria) via DPD. NO value but secure document with Embassey stamp costing £300. INsured for £300. Destination Bulgaria. France has charged 79.95 Euros customs when there is NO requirement for Customs and VAT. Cannot contact any of the companies, DPD, ChronoPost to discuss issue. THERE IS NO DIRCT COMMUNICATION. Event the email returend notknown. Absolute rip off from France and EU. Bulgaria has no control over import duty for this Valueless document item – Must pay to get delievred. Will try to reclaim later.

Dear Customer,

Your parcel 1550547096*****W from United Kingdom is ready for delivery to the following address:

Before we can deliver your parcel, we require payment of €79,50 for customs taxes and duties. Payment must be made online to Chronopost – a member of the DPD network and customs’ representative for the DPD Group.

It’s really easy to arrange payment of the customs taxes and duties on your parcel, simply connect to our secure online payment service by clicking on the button below.

Pay online

Please also note, payment should be made before 2021-04-18 to avoid the parcel being returned to the sender.

You can also track your parcel’s journey by clicking http://www.dpd.com/***************)/.

For more information about European customs regulations, please click on the following link: http://europa.eu/youreurope/business/vat-customs/cross-border/index_en.htm

Thank you for choosing DPDgroup Network.

AEG products are produced by Electrolux, SO when you have a dispute with the manufacturer what recourse do you have?
Ombudsman – NO because Electrolux are not signed up to the Ombudsman service
Alternative Dispute Resolution – NO you have to live in a country within the EU and the UK government hasn’t set up any alternative mechanism

SO what can consumers do? I wonder if this is something that is going to be an issue over the coming years

Hi Peter – You have statutory rights against the retailer: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/what-do-i-do-if-i-have-a-faulty-product-aTTEK2g0YuEy In most of the UK you have six years in which to make a claim regarding faulty goods. Elsewhere in the EU the period is generally two years, I believe. Most retailers are not good at telling their customers they have statutory rights.

You could get advice about your legal options by joining Which? Legal, even if you are not a subscriber.

Peter – You wrote that you have a dispute with the manufacturer. Is it not possible to resolve it with the retailer as Wavechange has suggested? If you are seeking a financial remedy you can make a court claim against the company. It is cheap and easy to do yourself and can involve a mediation process similar to an Ombudsman’s consideration.

As both wavechange and John have indicated when you purchase a product you enter into a contract with the seller, usually the retailer. So when you have a problem with a product it is the seller who is legally responsible for dealing with it. That is what the Consumer Rights Act 2015 is there for. You can choose to go direct to the manufacturer if you want to exercise their guarantee offering of course. That is what the consumer can do.

So if you have not already done so I suggest you approach the retailer with your problem. Which? give advice on your CRA rights.

Are some people’s fears now being allayed? Early days. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-56729631.

Not completely in my case.

But I don’t think we can easily distinguish between the effects of covid and the effects of Brexit right now.

Also, how’s our new Irish Sea border coming along?

And who is going to pay for the costs of all the extra red tape that businesses now face?

One area which seems ignored is the issue of sending articles to the EU for repair or refurbishment. My understanding is that if you send an article back to an EU supplier for repair you could be liable for VAT on the full value when it is returned. To avoid this you have to use something called “Outward Processing”, however the UK Govt instructions on how to do this are totally opaque & seem to assume the process will only be used by companies. There is no guidance (that I am aware of) for consumers who have bought goods from EU companies, with no UK agent, and need to return them for service and repair. This is another issue to add to VAT and delivery charges which I think Which should highlight.