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What you need to know about sending post between Germany and the UK after Brexit

As of December 31st 2020, when the Brexit transition period officially ended, the cost of sending packages between Germany and the UK went up, and there's more paperwork involved. Here's what you need to know.

What you need to know about sending post between Germany and the UK after Brexit
A DHL delivery worker in Halle. Photo: DPA

Many residents in Germany may have already noticed a difference when they have tried to post a package to the UK recently – or if they’ve received something from Britain.

That’s because the rules changed after the Brexit transition period ended at the start of this year, and the UK left the single market and customs union.

All types of parcels – whether commercial or private – are affected by changes to postal rules that came into force on January 1st 2021.

VAT and duty costs

The new rules could mean that you have to pay extra VAT and duties.

The taxes can be imposed when you order goods from the UK, if you send a package to the UK, or if friends and family in the UK send you a package in Germany. Typically, you have to pay the fees before you’re allowed to pick the item up at the post, delivery office or online.

According to the UK government website: “Most goods arriving in the UK are liable to any or all of the following taxes: Customs Duty, Excise Duty and Import VAT”.

If you are sending a gift from Germany to the UK, import VAT typically only applies to goods where the value is over £39, or the equivalent in Euros. Customs Duty is due only if the value of the goods cost over £135.

Residents in Germany will need to pay customs or VAT charges and a handling fee before they can claim the parcel. These charges will depend on the value of the item and whether it is a gift or not.

‘Complete nightmare’

Another issue that many UK residents in Germany have already noticed are the higher delivery costs.

Thanks to the UK no longer falling within the EU postal zone, sending a parcel to friends or family back home is a lot more expensive.

In Germany, for example, delivery firm DHL has now moved the UK into a new zone alongside Switzerland, with the price for sending small to medium packages rising from €4 to €10. The cost of posting a larger parcel used to be up to 5kg used to be €15.99 – and now it’s €26.90.

When you’re sending items, you also have to fill out a customs declaration form. 

“I sent a parcel to England from Berlin with DHL in January and it was a complete nightmare,” Alice, 30, a reader based in Berlin told The Local.

“I know it was more of a nightmare after the Brexit transition ended because I sent a similar parcel home for Christmas.

“The first frustrating thing is you have to do a customs declaration. It feels like preparing a parcel for Australia or something like that. It seems silly because the UK is right there.”

The customs declaration form, which you can get at the post office, has to include information about the contents of your package.

“You have to write down the weight of each item and how much it cost,” Alice said. “If it’s more expensive than a certain amount of money, the person at the other end receiving the package needs to pay customs duties on it. 

“I found it annoying because if it’s for a present it’s not great that you have to list everything on the outside of the parcel.”

And as we mentioned, the costs to send something home are now much higher.

“It’s much more expensive,” Alice said. “I sent a package of a similar weight – or probably slightly heavier – from Germany to England before the Brexit transition and I paid €18.
 
“After the Brexit transition I paid €30 to send a parcel and it was lighter.
 
“It’s a significant price difference and will be a bit of a deterrent to sending stuff home – that’s in addition to having to do all this customs stuff.”

Some people have raised concerns about mail taking longer to arrive.

This could be connected to the travel bans against Covid-19 variants that were put in place in December.

But delays could also be linked to businesses and individuals adapting to the new rules, plus the extra customs processes.

What else should you know?

Importing products derived from an animal into the EU from a Third Country (which is what the UK now is) is a complicated process and the rules apply to both businesses and individuals.

On the business side, our sister site the Local France saw shortages of fresh food in the Paris branches of Marks & Spencer, which imports its sandwiches and ready meals from the UK, due to the complicated process of obtaining veterinary certificates on all meat, dairy, eggs and other animal-derived products.

The EU’s strict sanitary rules mean that all imports of animal derived products – even just a packet of home-made fudge from your mum – technically come under these rules.

Known as Personal Imports (which also covers items that you bring back in your luggage after a trip to the UK) these have some exemptions including limited amounts of baby milk, food required for medial reasons or limited amounts of honey and certain fish products – find more information here.

Parcels that contain banned animal products can be seized and destroyed at the border.

You can also check out this extensive (and frankly, a little intimidating) information sheet on what people in the UK are allowed to send to Germany.

Member comments

  1. “The first frustrating thing is you have to do a customs declaration. It feels like preparing a parcel for Australia or something like that. It seems silly because the UK is right there.”

    Find it incredible that anyone is surprised. That’s what happens sending to ANY Country outside the EU, whatever the distance!

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BREXIT

How roaming charges will hit travellers between the UK and EU in 2022

Trips between Europe and the UK and vice versa may well become more expensive for many travellers in 2022 as UK mobile operators bring back roaming charges. However there is some good news for all EU residents.

People look at their mobile phones.
How travellers between the EU and UK could be hit by roaming charges in 2022 (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)

EU ‘roams like at home’ at least until 2032

First the good news. The European Union is set to decide to extend free roaming until 2032, so if you have your phone contract registered in an EU country you don’t have to worry about extra charges.

In addition to waiving the charges, the new regulation aims to ensure that travellers benefit of the same quality of service they have at home when travelling within the EU. If they have a 5G contract, for instance, they should also get 5G through the EU if possible. 

Under new rules, travellers should be given information about access to emergency services, including for people with disabilities.

Consumers should also be protected from prohibitive bills caused by inadvertent roaming on satellite networks when travelling on ferries or aeroplanes.

The final text of the new regulation was provisionally agreed in December. The European Parliament and Council will formally endorse it in the coming weeks.

UK companies reintroducing roaming charges this year

And now the bad news for travellers to the EU from the UK

Customers of UK mobile phone operators face higher fees when travelling in Europe this year, as some companies are bringing back roaming charges for calls, text messages and data downloaded during temporary stays in the EU.

This is one of the many consequences of the UK withdrawal from the European Union. Because of Brexit, the UK is no longer part of the EU’s “roam like at home” initiative which was designed to avoid shocking bills after holidays or business trips abroad.

The EU’s roaming regulation allows people travelling in the European Economic Area (EU countries plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) to make calls, send texts and browse the web using their regular plans at no extra cost. Switzerland is not part of the scheme, although some mobile phone providers offer roaming deals or special prices to cover travel in Switzerland.

Under EU rules, if the plan’s allowance is exceeded, the roaming fee is also capped at €0.032 per minute of voice call, €0.01 per SMS and €2.5 + VAT per gigabyte downloaded in 2022 (it was €3 + VAT in 2021). The wholesale price networks can charge each other is capped too.

The regulation was adopted for an initial period of five years and is due to expire on June 30th 2022. But the EU is preparing to extend it for another ten years. This time, however, the UK will not be covered. 

Which UK companies are reintroducing charges?

Three major UK network operators this year will reintroduce roaming charges for travels in the EU.

As of January 6th 2022, Vodafone UK will charge customers with monthly plans started after August 11th 2021 £2 per day to roam in the EU. The amount can be reduced to £1 per day by purchasing a pass for 8 or 15 days. Free roaming continues for earlier contracts, Data Xtra plans and for travels to Ireland.  

From March 3rd 2022, EE will also charge £2 per day to roam in 47 European locations, Ireland excluded. The new policy will apply to plans started from July 7th 2021. Alternatively, EE offers the Roam Abroad Pass, which allows roaming abroad for a month for £10. 

Another operator that announced a £2 daily fee to roam in the EEA, except for Ireland, is Three UK. The charge will apply from May 23rd 2022 for plans started or upgraded since October 1st 2021. The data allowance in monthly plans that can be used abroad is also capped at 12 gigabytes. 

O2 already introduced in August last year a 25-gigabyte cap (or less if the plan’s allowance is lower) to data that can be downloaded for free while travelling in Europe. Above that, customers are charged £3.50 per gigabyte. 

Other mobile operators said they have no intention to bring back roaming charges in the short term, but if won’t be surprising if they do so in the future. 

Sue Davies, Head of Consumer Protection Policy at UK consumer organisation Which? was disappointed at the changes and urged the UK and EU to “strike a deal on roaming charges” to stop companies “chipping away at the roaming benefits customers have become used to” and “prevent the return of the excessive charges people used to encounter.” 

By law, charges for mobile data used abroad remain capped at £45 per month and consumers can only continue data roaming only if they actively chose to keep spending. 

What about EU residents travelling to the UK?

In the EU, most mobile phone operators seem keen to continue free roaming for travels to the UK, but some have announced changes too.

In Sweden, Telenor aligned UK’s prices to those of non-EEA countries on May 1st 2021 while still allowing free roaming for some plans. 

Another Swedish operator, Telia, ended free roaming with the UK and Gibraltar on September 13th 2021 giving customers the option to access 200 megabytes of data for SEK 99 per day. People travelling to the UK can also buy a weekly pass allowing to make calls, send texts and download 1 GB of data. 

In Germany Telefónica Deutschland and 1 & 1 have extended current conditions for the UK until at least the end of 2022. However companies may keep other options open depending on negotiations with roaming partners. 

A1 Telekom Austria brought roaming charges back for the UK last June. Customers now have to pay €2.49 per minute for outgoing calls and €1.49 per minute for incoming calls if they are in the UK or Gibraltar. An SMS costs 99 cents and each 100 KB of data €1.49. 

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK. 

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