With Brexit, came new guidelines and regulations for the eCommerce industry that came into effect on January 1, 2021 as Britain’s participation in the EU eCommerce Directive ended. These new regulations not only affect consumers, but retailers as well. As with anything new, these regulations are taking time to get used to for both consumers and retailers, leading to shipping delays and issues when shipping between the UK and Ireland.
For the first time, retailers in the UK exporting their products to the EU have to make customs declarations on their goods. Although the retailer can do this themselves, this is usually handled by the carriers. Licences and certifications are now needed to export specific products from the UK including but not limited to animal, plants, food and agricultural products and vice versa, businesses in the EU now also require to hold licenses and certifications to import specific products from the UK.
Many retailers that we have been in touch with since Brexit came into effect; both Scurri customers and non-customers looking for advice, are unaware of the regulations that are now in place and don’t feel they have been properly informed about the changes to the eCommerce industry. This is one of the many reasons why shipping has been disrupted between the UK and Ireland since Britain’s participation in the EU eCommerce Directive ended. Many retailers have been faced with the issue of finding out about regulations when they go to import or export a product, leaving both themselves and the buyers in the lurch and facing delays.
Northern Ireland has been an anomaly in this situation. Northern Ireland was left with a dual status in the UK customs territory and the EU’s single market for goods. As part of this, it was announced that there would be a three month grace period – until April 1, 2021, where most parcels entering Northern Ireland would not need customs declarations. Instead, customs ports were set up in Ireland and Great Britain to clear customs before the items entered Northern Ireland. However, despite these extra measures and grace period, there are still disruptions in the service for items going from Great Britain into Northern Ireland.
Looking at the case of Northern Ireland, the best practices for ensuring timely and smooth delivery of goods can apply to the rest of the EU when ordering from the UK as well, including Ireland, which normally sees next-day deliveries from the UK. With the new regulations, consumers in Ireland are experiencing disruptions to the services they have come to expect when ordering out of the UK, and retailers can take steps to guarantee these services get back on track.
The first thing retailers in the UK should do before shipping items to the EU is check the banned items list. Every express carrier, or the Royal Mail Service, will have a banned items list that will be available for a country by country basis. Ensuring that the items being shipped do not belong to a banned items list is imperative to consumers receiving the goods not only in a timely manner, but at all. This is the first time a list like this has been in effect for the UK shipping to EU nations, so it is best for retailers to double check this list, as they may be unaware of new regulations surrounding prohibited items.
The next step for retailers is to sign up for the Trader Support Service. Recently, the UK launched a free-to-use Trader Support Service, which will help businesses and traders manage the changes that will affect business when moving goods not only into Northern Ireland, but also into the EU. This will help retailers who have not been properly informed of the new regulations to make sure they are abiding by the guidelines to not only help their business, but also to keep consumers as loyal customers by guaranteeing timely delivery with no disruptions.
Lastly, retailers in the UK should send over their customs data as soon as it is available. While this is not yet required for shipment to Northern Ireland, it will be after April 1, so as best practice, retailers should begin sending this data when they have it available to know they are ready for these changes when they take place. For the EU, sending customs data is already required, however if it is not sent immediately, there can be disruptions and delays in the shipping process, which is the problem many consumers in Ireland are seeing when ordering from the UK — a problem that they have not faced before.
While many retailers remain uncertain around Brexit procedures, more and more clarity is emerging from carriers and governments on the way forward. Businesses and customers are increasingly educating themselves and gradually adapting to this new world. There are best practices that retailers can follow along with to make sure that both their business and consumers are satisfied with the shipping and delivery processes moving forward post-Brexit, specifically between the UK and Ireland.
Fergal O’Carroll is the chief revenue officer at delivery management company, Scurri, with responsibility for sales strategy and execution.
His prior roles include EMEA vice-president for commercial sales with Teradata for eight years; prior to that, he was managing director of business intelligence solutions with Avnet Client Solutions for 13 years.
Fergal holds a BA in Business Studies from the University of West London and is a native of Dublin, Ireland.