Great Britain officially left the European Union (EU) in February 2020. There was a transitional phase until December 31, 2020, which is now ending and cannot be extended. In order to enable negotiations for a smooth exit by Great Britain from the EU, the EU internal market rules and the rules of the European customs union remained in force for the ex-EU member state during the transition phase – so nothing had changed for consumers in the EU so far. With the start of the new year, however, things will change.
From January 2021: entry and passenger rights
According to the British government’s model for processes in European border traffic, EU citizens will need a passport to enter the UK from January 2021; a normal German identity card, for example, is no longer sufficient. According to the ZDF, it is still unclear in mid-December 2020 whether a visa must also be applied for. In addition, EU air and passenger rights presumably only apply to entry and no longer to return travel. In addition, if no new contracts are concluded, individual airlines may no longer be allowed to land on British soil.
In order to be allowed to drive a car in Great Britain after January 1, 2021, according to Focus, EU citizens do not need an international driver’s license, but a green insurance card for the car if they use their own vehicle. All motor vehicle insurance companies issue these on request.
Telephone providers are not allowed to charge their customers more money for using mobile data in other EU countries than for using data in their home country. So far, consumers in Great Britain have also benefited from this rule, but from January 2021 the British government will be able to charge so-called “delivery charges” from providers: From 2021, the use of mobile data in Great Britain can also become significantly more expensive for customers. Consumers should therefore ask their provider about the costs before leaving for Great Britain – otherwise high bills could be waiting in the mailbox when they return home.
Savings and insurance
If you have money or savings deposits with a British bank with headquarters in Great Britain, you don’t have to worry: the European deposit insurance still applies – despite Brexit. In the event of bankruptcy, explained T-Online, so deposits of up to 95,000 euros are secured. If the bank has transferred its business to another bank approved in the EU because of Brexit, there is even a deposit guarantee of 100,000 euros. Consumers who want to be absolutely sure can also buy a voluntary additional – private, so to speak – deposit insurance from their bank.
The situation is somewhat different with insurance: For example, after the end of the Brexit transition phase, British life insurers will only be able to offer contracts for European customers if they have a branch within the EU. However, it is not up to the insured to find out about the current state of affairs – the insurance companies concerned have usually already contacted their customers and clarified the further procedure. The future of health insurance for EU citizens in Great Britain, however, is not yet entirely certain – on the one hand, it was agreed that Germans insured with a British health insurance company will continue to be insured if they were resident in Great Britain on December 31, 2020. On the other hand, as of mid-December 2020, negotiations will be held as to whether the European health insurance card (as part of statutory insurance) will continue to be valid or whether EU citizens need additional travel health insurance during their stay in Great Britain.
Online shopping and customs
With the transition phase of Brexit, European consumer protection for online shopping at British companies will also end. From now on, a right of return (with reimbursement of the full purchase price) applies within the first two weeks after purchase and a two-year guarantee on all products. However, it could be difficult to enforce these consumer rights in an emergency because, according to T-Online, both a British court and an EU court would have to examine the case. EU citizens no longer receive legal support from the EU platform for online dispute resolution in disputes with British online retailers at the end of the Brexit transition phase, which can make the enforcement of consumer rights even more difficult.
In addition, prices for British goods can rise significantly: Customs can levy duties on almost all products – this applies not only to goods from online retail, but also to food that is sold in German supermarkets. With the exit of Great Britain from the EU, the ex-member state is no longer bound by European food directives. That is why there are now more intensive controls at the British border, which should extend delivery times for British goods. If British food producers do not receive a seal that is accepted in the EU for their goods, imports will be stopped. Consumers must therefore expect that some food (especially animal products) from Great Britain will no longer appear on the shelves of European supermarkets.
British media consumption
The copyright will remain in effect even after the end of the Brexit transition phase, but not all EU data protection directives apply – consumers should definitely familiarize themselves with the data protection regulations of British websites & Co. As far as the distribution of British audiovisual media (such as television) is concerned, the EU can now impose restrictions – but only within the strict framework of current EU law.