Customers in Europe buying products ranging from furniture to pet food from UK companies are receiving unexpected bills for VAT and customs declarations or finding household names have stopped shipping to the continent, as post-Brexit trading rules bite.
“We bought a €47 [£42] shelf from Next for our bathroom,” said Thom Basely, who lives in Marseille. “On the morning it was supposed to be delivered we received an ‘import duty/tax’ demand for over €30, like a ransom note. It came as a complete surprise.”
A Frankfurt resident who ordered cycle clothing from a UK company was sent a tax and customs demand for €102, while a woman in the Netherlands who bought trousers in December “with no issues” faced a €40 bill for two more pairs ordered in January.
Chris Hickson, a retired logistics and freight forwarding expert living in France, said many people may have been surprised because “they believed the tariff-free trade deal negotiated between the UK and EU meant there would be no extra charges”.
Since the end of the Brexit transition period, however, continental customers must both complete a customs declaration for goods imported from the UK – a procedure generally performed by transporters, for which consumers will be charged, frequently up to €20 per declaration – and pay national VAT.
Other European customers have been informed that such iconic British retailers as the luxury food store Fortnum & Mason were unfortunately “unable to send any products to European countries at this current time, due to Brexit restrictions”.
Customers of the department store chain John Lewis, also popular with British citizens living in the EU, who value its “never knowingly undersold” price match guarantee and reliable customer service, have also been disappointed.
Until December, the retailer offered EU delivery for many items on sale through its website, including clothes. But anyone requesting shipping to Europe is now greeted by a page stating: “We are no longer taking orders for international delivery.”
Some retailers, such as George at Asda, have promised no additional charges, but several international platforms including Asos have halted deliveries to Europe from their UK sites, instead directing buyers to national versions in, for example, France.
David Martin, who lives in the Creuse region in central France, said he switched his regular order for dog food from the pet supplies company Zooplus to its Irish site after being told the UK platform was no longer accepting orders from the continent.