UK retailers could ‘burn’ goods stuck in EU over costly Brexit returns process

The Port of Dover in Kent

The Port of Dover in Kent - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Some UK retailers are considering abandoning or burning goods returned by EU customers due to the cost and trouble of bringing them back into the country, an industry boss said.

The BBC reports the Brexit trade deal has seen many European customers rejecting goods imported from the UK after being presented with unexpected customs charges when signing for them.

The broadcaster cites figures from Statista showing about 30% of items bought online are returned, meaning large volumes of goods are turned around.

Retailers are then met with more customs paperwork and charges upon the goods’ arrival back in the UK, with UK Fashion & Textile Association chief Adam Mansell telling the BBC it is “cheaper for retailers to write off the cost of the goods than dealing with it all, either abandoning or potentially burning them”.

He added: “It’s part of the ongoing small print of the deal. If you’re in Germany and buying goods from the UK, you as the German customer are the importer bringing goods into the EU.


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“You then have a courier company knocking on the door giving you a customs clearance invoice that you need to pay to receive your goods.”

Mr Mansell said further customs paperwork facing UK retailers when goods are returned includes an “export clearance charge, import charge arrival, import VAT charge and, depending on the goods, a rules of origin document as well.

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“Lots of large businesses don’t have a handle on it, never mind smaller ones.”

In a statement to the BBC, the government said: “We have encouraged companies new to dealing with customs declarations to appoint a specialist to deal with import and export declarations on their behalf – and we made more than £80m available to expand the capacity of the customs agents market.

“The government will continue to work closely with businesses to ensure they are able to trade effectively under the new rules.”

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