Irish retailers are being undercut online by non-EU rivals

Digital Business Ireland calls for stronger digital market surveillance to protect home-based retailers against overseas rivals skimping on taxes.

By not paying applicable taxes, rival retailers from overseas are able to offer goods at lower costs than Irish firms.

Digital commerce sector advocate Digital Business Ireland (DBI) – which represents 5,000 businesses – has called for stronger digital market surveillance of online advertising of goods and products, as Ireland enters a traditionally busy shopping period.

“Without the necessary checks and balances this has ramifications for businesses, jobs and the safety of consumers”

It says that €33.97m worth of goods were imported by Irish consumers between May and August of this year.

With so many goods and products being sold from non-EU countries, the relevant tax rates are generally not applied and as a result, they are advertised at a lower cost which is ultimately putting these businesses at a competitive advantage while consequently jeopardising business in Ireland that are wholly compliant.

Non-EU e-commerce threat

“With the advent of the pandemic, online trading has gained significant momentum,” the secretary-general of Digital Business Ireland Lorraine Higgins warned.

“However, there is a lack of digital systems that allow for a comprehensive verification of all imports. Despite best efforts, hundreds of thousands of packages remain uncontrolled which means the applicable taxes are not paid. Furthermore, some products are not of merchantable quality, or contain harmful ingredients, incorrect labelling and are guilty of brand piracy, and this must be counteracted with effective market surveillance.

“In online trading, we do not have a regulatory problem, but an enforcement problem. It’s time to implement digital tools and recruit more staff to effectively control non-EU e-commerce. Without the necessary checks and balances this has ramifications for businesses, jobs and the safety of consumers,” Higgins warned.

John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.