Take a look at what Brexit changes for the Estonian consumers: several regulations have expired

The transition phase of Britain’s exit from the European Union has ended in the beginning of this year. What has changed for Estonian consumers in this regard? The EU Consumer Center in Estonia provides answers to some key questions.

“Consumer protection laws in the EU countries are mostly harmonized. The United Kingdom did not change its existing consumer rights when it left the Union or during the transitional period. The biggest change is that most EU regulations that are directly applicable will no longer apply in the UK this year. For example, the regulation about air passenger rights, which means that passengers cannot take into account the same protections that applied for the flights departing from Great Britain,” explained Kristina Tammaru, the head of the EU Consumer Advice Center in Estonia.

What are the main consumer rights?

The most frequently used consumer rights concern making a claim when purchasing goods and ordering from an e-shop. Leaving the EU will not change the current UK consumer law, so consumers can still count on the right to lodge a claim for defective goods and a 14-day right of withdrawal when buying from an UK e-shop.

It is useful to know that the law in force in the United Kingdom gives consumers a higher level of protection than the minimum required in the EU when purchasing defective goods. Thus, in the case of defective products purchased from the United Kingdom, the consumer has the right to lodge a claim for a period of five years, but for Scotland of six years. “This right applies regardless of the sales channel, thus also for goods ordered from the online store,” Tammaru added.

The 14-day right of withdrawal valid in the European Union for goods purchased from the e-shop remained in force in Great Britain. However, consumers should be aware that if customs duties had to be paid upon receipt of an e-purchase from the United Kingdom, a withdrawal application must be submitted to the e-shop, but for a refund of the taxes one must contact the Tax and Customs Board.

What rights can consumers no longer take into account?

Although the main consumer rights that could be taken into account in the European Union remained the same in the United Kingdom, some directly applicable regulations lapsed. This concerns, for example, the rights of air passengers in relation to flights originating in the United Kingdom, including delays or cancellations. The regulation continues to be valid for flights to Estonia from Great Britain or elsewhere in Europe. “At the same time, it is known that British national law does not reduce the existing passenger rights under the regulation,” Tammaru added. The ban on geoblocking (also known as location-based blocking), data protection rules and roaming charges will also remain in force.

In addition, at the end of the transitional phase of Brexit, a number of directly applicable regulations governing the possibility of claiming a trader expired. As a result, consumers will no longer be able to use the online dispute resolution platform, the European Small Claims Procedure or the European order for payment procedure in the event of a complaint and claim against a trader established in the United Kingdom.

When purchasing goods from the UK, will there still be possible to get assistance with resolving the complaints?

Centers have been set up in every EU country, Norway and Iceland, to deal with cross-border consumer complaints, forming an ECC network. The Estonian EU Consumer Advice Center, is part of the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority. As of 2021, the corresponding center in Great Britain will no longer be part of the ECC network, but will continue its work to the current extent, cooperating with centers in other EU countries in resolving consumer complaints. Thus, in case of disputes with a British trader, Estonian consumers can continue to ask for advice and assistance in Estonian and submit a complaint to the local ECC center, which forwards it to the British Center for a substantive solution. “How long the United Kingdom will offer such an out-of-court and free complaint resolution service cannot be predicted, but today such an opportunity still exists for Estonian consumers,” added Kristina Tammaru.