UK deliveries coming with unexpected import charges
Residents in Luxembourg are becoming reluctant to buy goods from the UK after Brexit, as they are being faced with import and tax charges they were not warned about when ordering items online.
No tariffs are due on goods transported between the UK and the European Union, because of a trade agreement the two sides negotiated out after Britain's departure from the 27-nation bloc. That is unless the goods originally stem from a third-party country, such as China.
For many residents in the Grand Duchy this came as a shock when they unexpectedly had to pay additional costs after an item was delivered or they had already paid for it - something the seller never said a word about.
“[It was] the first time I ordered from the UK this year, and probably the last, because it’s a lot,” said Kristine Ladeira.
The European Parliament translator had ordered a €100 swimsuit and paid for it, to then receive an email from delivery firm DHL, asking her to pay an additional €62 in duty and tax charges. The firm would pay these charges on her behalf, but she would need to reimburse the company.
“I was annoyed,” she said. “I think everybody would be.”
The import duties come on top of VAT charges at the Luxembourg rate of 17% for goods worth more than €22 arriving in the EU. Even without such charges, it is already much harder in Luxembourg to order goods online because many sellers consider it too small a market to be profitable.
While the costs may have been justified because the swimsuit came from outside the European Union and the UK, the seller should have clearly stated the final amount of the order on the invoice, DHL said.
Leticia Gurgel’s family also faced unexpected delivery fees. “I will think twice and try to order from France or Germany, before I buy from the UK,” said Gurgel, a 40-year old mother of one.
In January, Gurgel's husband bought an item from the UK, at a cost of €55. When it arrived through courier firm DPL, he had to pay €23 extra delivery charge, something the seller had not warned him about.
Gurgel also ran into issues about a product she had ordered from the UK through Amazon. The online retailer first told her they could not deliver the goods because of customs problems. That turned out to be a mistake, but the order took weeks rather than days which she had expected.
The new problems that have arisen after Brexit come on top of another problem plaguing people ordering goods from abroad: the fact that delivery into Luxembourg is more expensive or not possible at all.
“For many EU or internet e-commerce shops it’s not worth the effort [to deliver goods to Luxembourg],” said Claude Bizjak of the Confederation for Luxembourgish Commerce, a lobby group. The size of the market is too small compared to Germany or France to run a profitable business, Bizjak said.
“If you have a German shop [for example] and you have to set up deliveries [abroad] you will set them up with the bigger country where you know you have the most customers,” he said. “It’s a question of market size.”
Giants such as Amazon can afford to lose on delivery charges to Luxembourg, making it even harder for smaller companies to compete. EU rules state that companies must offer goods they deliver at the same price - no matter what EU country the customer is in. They must also show the delivery price in each country. But this does not obligate sellers to deliver to all countries, leaving customers to arrange their own delivery or pick-up.
“I think we all have to agree that it’s pretty ridiculous,” said Bizjak.
Iza Bergmans is another individual critical of the policy. She makes clothing for fun and faces much higher delivery charges in Luxembourg when she orders her fabric abroad than would be the case in France or Belgium.
When she ordered material from Denmark, for example, delivery costs were €20, where as they would only have been €9 in France or Germany. “I assumed that delivery in the bloc should be good,” she said. “I find that outrageous.”