While retailers are gearing up for a busy weekend of shopping, consumers are being urged to take caution when buying online. Revenue has reminded shoppers that purchases coming from outside of the European Union could be liable for tax and duties. It has also warned shoppers to be vigilant against counterfeit goods. All goods arriving from non-EU countries can be charged VAT if valued at more than €22, while customs duty applies on goods valued at €150 or more. Revenue says it applied an average charge of €28.70 cent to 76,000 packages last year

Dermott Jewell, policy advisor to the Consumers' Association of Ireland, said it is relatively easy to incur extra VAT if a product is coming from outside of the EU and is worth more than €22 - including the cost of delivery. Mr Jewell also said that in some cases where you are buying more than one item, some of the websites providing the closing element of the sale offer to "bundle" and send them in one package. He describes this as a "trap" which consumers can quite easily fall into and as a result, a consumer can find themselves in a situation where the goods attract VAT. The other side of the coin, according to Mr Jewell, is if the total package is worth more than €150, not only does the consumer take a hit on VAT but also on customs duty and an agent's charge, when the package is delivered to their front door. 

Mr Jewell said that consumers have to look at the overall price of the goods and keep a track of where they are making the purchase. He said that if people are going outside the EU and are buying in dollars, they need to know beforehand what the exchange rate is and keep to their intended purchase - stick to their shopping list. He said that, understandably, people can get caught up in the "positivity" of shopping online but they need to relax and take away a degree of the urgency. 

If consumers are buying within the European Union, Mr Jewell said that they have very good rights, including a 14 day cooling off period - this 14 days starts on receipt of goods. Consumers have a 14 day period in which to return unwanted goods and it should take 14 days to get their money back, he explained. But he warns there are some elements which need to be watched. A consumer has to ensure they have the full name and address of the business they are trading with as so many traders have set up specifically for the Black Friday event and will be trying to sell counterfeit goods. He also said they will try to take on any element of consumers'  banking details and make money while they can.  


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