Brexit and its consequences for consumers

Almost 5 years after the referendum, Brexit is now effective since January 1, 2021. The rights of British consumers who travel, buy or live in the UE are changing. In this article we answer the most frequently asked questions about the consequences of Brexit for British consumers shopping or traveling to the EU and especially France. 

Traveling to and from France

If you are a United Kingdom nationals, you have to show a valid passport at border control. Passports should be less than 10 years old and valid for at least 6 months after the departure date.

For travel restrictions under COVID, please refer to Entry requirements - France travel advice - GOV.UK

If you are a tourist, you do not need a visa for short trips to most EU countries. You’ll be able to stay in the Schengen area for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Different rules apply to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania. 

As of January 24 at midnight, if you arrive from an EU Member State or a third country by plane or by ferry, you can only enter France with a negative result of a PCR test carried out less than 72 hours before departure. You will also have to self-isolate for 7 days upon arrival in France.

At French border control your passport may be stamped on entry and exit. You should also be prepared to:

  • queue in separate lanes from EU, EEA or Swiss citizens
  • show proof of your accommodation, for example a hotel booking or invitation from your host
  • show proof of insurance for your trip. Please check the guidance on travel insurance
  • you should also be able to prove that you have enough money for your stay. The minimum amount required depends on your accommodation. 

There are separate requirements for those who are resident in France. If you are resident in France, you should carry proof of residence as well as your valid passport when you travel. For further information on these requirements, see the French government’s website for British citizens and our Living in France guide.

If you travel to France with goods you purchased in the UK, there are volume- and value-based customs and tax allowances depending on the type of goods (tobacco or medicinal products, alcoholic beverages...).

More info on the French Directorate General of Customs and Excise website.

The European Union provides air passengers with protections in case of cancelled or delayed flights or denied boarding. This applies to:

  • flights leaving from the European Union, Iceland, Norway or Switzerland, no matter the destination or the nationality of the airline;
  • flights to the European Union, Iceland, Norway or Switzerland, no matter the departure airport, but only if the airline has an European licence.

Traveling from the EU to the United Kingdom: even once the United Kingdom is no longer part of the European Union, European Regulation 261/2004 will remain in effect for British airlines.

Traveling from the United Kingdom to the EU: the British government seems to want to maintain the rights of airline passengers for flights leaving from the United Kingdom.

 

Train passengers’ rights are unchanged for national and international routes. Passengers on international routes will continue to benefit from the European rights guaranteed by Directive 1371/2007, which has been transposed into British law.      

  •  From the UK to France

You can no longer use a pet passport issued in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) for travels to France. You can still use a pet passport issued in an EU country though.

When travelling to France, your pet needs:

  • a microchip
  • a valid rabies vaccination
  • an animal health certificate unless you have a pet passport issued in an EU country or Northern Ireland.

More information on www.gov.uk

  • From France to the UK

An EU pet passport issued in a Member state of the EU is still valid to enter Great Britain.

Before travelling, all pets must be:

  • microchipped
  • vaccinated against rabies

More information on www.gov.uk

 

Shopping and e-commerce in France

 

 

French sellers of consumer goods are obliged to guarantee the conformity of the goods, for a period of 2 years after the delivery. 

In cas of dispute, it is up to the seller to prove that the goods delivered are in conformity with the order or are suitable for normal use of the product:

  • during the first 6 months, for second-hand goods (starting January 1, 2022 this will be extended to 12 months);
  • during the entire duration of the legal guarantee (2 years) for new goods.

Starting January 1, 2022 protection under the legal guarantee of conformity is reinforced for new goods, as for second-hand goods by a six-month extension of guarantee for goods repaired in this context.

British law has incorporated the European directive establishing the legal conformity guarantee. After Brexit, this guarantee will continue to apply: consumers can request sellers to replace or refund purchases made in the United Kingdom which fail to conform.

This guarantee lasts for 6 years for new items in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and for 5 years in Scotland.

As of now, for the first 6 months following the purchase, consumers do not have to prove that the item was defective.  

Further information on your rights on www.which.co.uk

If the French seller regularly delivers to the UK and directs its activities towards UK consumers, British law is applicable. See the previous questions for your rights under the legal guarantee. For purchases made from a distance, you will also benefit from a cooling off period of 14 days which allows you to change your mind or cancel your order. 

If you make a purchase from a French website that does not direct its activities to UK consumers, French law will generally apply. If a purchased product is defective, you are be able to invoke the legal guarantee of conformity for 2 years after delivery and therefore receive a refund or a replacement from the seller. For purchases made from a distance, you will also benefit from the cooling off period of 14 days which allows you to change your mind or cancel your order.

If the British seller regularly delivers to France and directs its activities towards French consumers, French law is normally applicable. For your rights under the legal guarantee, please check our previous question on purchases made in a French store.

For purchases made from a distance, you will also benefit from the withdrawal period of 14 days which allows you to change your mind or cancel your order.

If you make a purchase from a British website that does not direct itself towards foreign clients, British law will generally apply. See above on your rights under the legal guarantee as when purchasing from a shop in the UK.

For purchases made from a distance, you will also benefit from the withdrawal period of 14 days which allows you to change your mind or cancel your order.

 

Since January 1, 2021, if you live in France and buy from a British website, as for any purchase in a third country, you may be exempt from UK VAT. However, for some orders you will have to pay import VAT when the goods enter the EU.  
You should not be required to pay both UK VAT and French VAT.

The UK seller has 2 options regarding VAT: either he/she chooses to charge you the French VAT on goods delivered from the UK and you will therefore not have to pay import VAT on delivery, or he/she chooses to charge you the net price (excluding UK VAT) and you will then have to pay import VAT on delivery.

  • No VAT on purchases under €22 until July 2021

From January to July 2021, if the value of a package delivered from the UK to France is less than €22 (£23,94 GBP including UK VAT) , then it will be exempt from French import VAT. The €22 exemption is per package, not per item. 

  • VAT on all goods delivered from the UK from July 2021

The €22 exemption from VAT on imports will be removed from July 1, 2021.

From this date, if you buy a good for less than €150 on a UK marketplace for delivery in France, the marketplace will be responsible for collecting French VAT.  Other online sellers in the UK will be able to choose to charge French VAT or not charge it at all, see above. If no VAT is charged at the time of order, you will have to pay it on delivery. 

If you have ordered goods for an amount of less than €150 (approximately £135), you will not have to pay any customs duty.

If you order goods "made in the UK or the EU" for more than €150, you will also not pay duty.

But if you order in the UK for more than €150 of products made in another third country and shipped from that country, you will have to pay duty. The applicable rates depend on the products (see the customs website). 

For example, if you decide to buy on Amazon UK sneakers made in China and sent from China to France for £270, you will have to add 16.9% customs duty and 20% French VAT to the price, which will bring the final price to around £378. 

Communication to and in the UK

Since January 1, 2021, UK telecom operators are free to charge for mobile roaming. Roaming charges for calls, texts, and Internet access on mobile telephones within the EU were lifted on June 15, 2017 but this EU regulation no longer applies to the UK, which has permanently left the EU.

Each British and/or French telecom operator can therefore decide whether or not to charge additional fees for calls, SMS, MMS and mobile data for European customers in the UK and British customers in France. Please check with your operator for details.

Money

This means of payment is harmonized in the EU within the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA).SEPA also covers non member states of the European Union and countries outside of the eurozone such as the United Kingdom. In third countries, the system coexists with national payments and withdrawals. SEPA applies for payments made in euros and/or the national system allows payments to be made in the national currency. 

In order to facilitate exchanges with the Member states of the EU, the United Kingdom has decided to remain in SEPA. Your bank transfers should continue to be easy between France and the UK, but additional fees may apply. Check also for conversion rates and fees for your payments in GBP.

Health

A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives you the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in the EU. Your UK EHIC continues to be valid in the EU. More info here.