what impression on e-commerce, six months later?


The cessation of free movement of goods and customs formalities, the new way of collecting taxes, the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union disrupted the methods of international e-commerce.

The UK left the single market and customs union on 1 January 2021, and the effects of Brexit were immediate. According to the British Office for National Statistics, foreign trade activity in the United Kingdom has been under influence since January. Exports of goods fell by 19.3% due to a 40.7% drop in exports to the European Union. As for the import of goods, it decreased by 21.6%, while imports from the European Union decreased by 28.8%.

Declaring goods to French customs in both directions, checking trucks heading towards the UK, the entry into force of Brexit really wasn’t good news for e-commerce. “From the absence of formalities to be done in the context of intra-EU trade, we have moved to the obligation to submit an import or export declaration with possible payment of duties, customs registration formalities, the establishment of bonds, etc. “, Specifies JDN French customs, which continues to support e-traders.

However, the digital maturity of the United Kingdom places it as the first e-commerce market in Europe and the third in the world, after the United States and China, according to Business France. How have French e-merchants come to terms with these new rules?

VAT: new offers

As a first step, and after Brexit, the UK tax authorities changed the VAT rules to imports of e-commerce products into the UK. Imports of goods with a value less than or equal to 135 pounds (157 euros) are subject to VAT on sales instead of VAT on imports. Problem, VAT on sales must be charged to the UK consumer by the seller (regardless of nationality) when paying. The seller must then declare and pay the VAT collected through the regular VAT return in the United Kingdom. Not to mention the simplified but still necessary customs declaration.

Goods above this value are subject to import VAT. On delivery, the carrier asks the UK buyer to pay VAT in order to receive their package. In this case, the seller must not charge VAT on the sale, risking that his buyer will pay twice as much VAT …

If the £ 135 threshold is easily reached in the luxury or fashion sector, other parts of e-commerce are recording lower average baskets. “This threshold has raised the issue of tax-excluding amounts and all taxes levied on consumers,” points out Romain André, e-commerce project director at Synolia, an e-commerce and CRM web agency. Despite the educational efforts of our e-retailers to make British customers, the bad surprise caused a significant level of dissatisfaction.

laborious procedures

Between long and tedious processes on the part of retailers, combined with a poor user experience on the part of British consumers, Brexit has put e-commerce activity to the test across the Channel. Six months later, some traders have decided to bear VAT on imports instead of their customers, even if it means increasing their fixed costs.

A decision that not all e-merchants can afford. British buyers of the organic cosmetics brand Avril therefore have to pay customs duties and higher delivery costs of € 15.95, compared to € 8.85 before Brexit. “Customs formalities are complicated to run for a company like ours that doesn’t have an export department,” says Manon Delhaie, customer support and sales administration manager at Avril. In particular, Avril’s resellers and professional buyers must take steps to obtain “Responsible Person” status in the United Kingdom. Long steps again. “Professional clients are discouraged from working with us due to expensive and laborious procedures,” insists Manon Delhaie. For these reasons, Avril considered leaving the UK market for a while before changing her mind and mobilizing her quality department on this aspect.

Leave the UK market?

If Brexit significantly complicates commercial activities between the European Union and the United Kingdom, should this market be abandoned? This approach was taken by 3 Suisses, which is nevertheless structured with an import department. “After Brexit, we stopped our shipments to England. We are primarily a French e-trader doing business in France,” they told us on the retailers’ website.

If the UK market has undeniable potential with a quick return on investment, Brexit requires an increase in fixed costs. “There is a slight lack of interest in the United Kingdom in favor of French-speaking countries and southern European countries,” notes Romain André. Although it is still premature to compare the evolution of the volume of trade between the United Kingdom and France towards French customs, which has been collecting this data since January 1, “it should be specified that with regard to e-commerce, some shipments are such as e-commerce purchases sent by mail. All that remains is to wait for the first anniversary of Brexit, when customs and carriers will be able to discover its quantified impact on French e-commerce.

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