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Getting a Refund on Items Bought Abroad

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 3 Jun 2021 |
Refund Purchase Abroad Overseas Money

With the rise of the Internet and auction websites such as Ebay it is now easier than ever to buy goods from abroad. Once you’ve made a purchase, though, it can be very difficult to secure a refund. Even if you do manage to negotiate with the seller and send your purchase back to their country, the cost of this exercise is likely to be great. Postal and courier costs to overseas destinations can be very expensive, particularly if you want to insure the item you are returning.

Secondly, if you bought the item outside the European Union you will in most circumstances have to pay customs charges when the item enters the UK. These may be customs duty, VAT as well as excise duty. This adds between 5 and 15% onto the cost of the goods. If the goods cost over £18 (excluding p & p), you will pay 17.5% VAT. These charges are non-refundable and are often payable to the company delivering your product to you, whether you use Royal Mail or another courier.

If you are buying from a private seller on an auction site, be very wary of requests for payment through money transfer companies like Western Union or Moneygram. It is easy for unscrupulous sellers to collect the money and then disappear, leaving you without either the product you paid for or any recourse with the seller.

Issues To Consider

It is often tempting to buy goods abroad, especially on holiday, because the same products are available more cheaply than in the UK. However, an obvious disadvantage is whether or not you’ll be able to get a refund if anything goes wrong. Before you part with your cash there are a number of things worth considering:

  • Electrical goods from overseas may not be compatible in the UK; they simply won’t work
  • Software may be incompatible with UK computers
  • DVDs can be regional and only work in DVD players intended for certain countries
  • Manufacturers may not accept repairs, replacement or refund requests from abroad
  • Guarantees may be invalid once the product is taken to a different country
  • Currency fluctuations
  • Local sales taxes (which you can claim back)

How To Protect Yourself

Make sure you get the contact details of the seller so that you can inform them if anything goes wrong with your purchase. However, if you use your credit card there are other ways to protect yourself. If something goes wrong with the transaction, you can use section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 to get a refund. Each purchase must be between £100 and £30,000 to be eligible for this protection.

For more information on how to do this see the section on this site called ‘Refunds When You Pay By Credit Card’. This remedy won’t apply if you paid via Paypal, Worldpay or Google checkout, though.

If you have paid an overseas seller using an online processor you should approach them directly. They have their own policies and procedures to deal with problems with purchase.

If you have to resort to litigation the cost of conducting this overseas, especially if documents need to be translated, may prove to be prohibitive. While an offer may seem good when you are relaxed on holiday, the amount may be somewhat sobering when printed in sterling on your bank statement. When you are shopping with overseas sellers, the best advice is to make sure you consider the pros and cons rather than basing the decision solely on the advertised price.

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I ordered a ring from a company outside of the US back in April.In the add, it states that you can get a refund within 60 days if you are not satisfied with their product.The ring looks similar to the add, but there are things about the ring I don't like and wish to get my money back.I have sent them several emails stating I want a refund, but they keep telling me it's the product I ordered, therefore I am not able to get a refund or exchange.Is there any way I can get my money back?It wasn't a terribly expensive item, but now it's just the fact they refuse to refund my money.Can you help?
Terry - 3-Jun-21 @ 5:37 PM
I paid for some car parts from a company in Germany a year ago by debit card and still have not received any news by email or phone. i waited because the parts have to be ordered especially and then worked on, they give 5-6 weeks for work to be done but due to parts being ordered in may take longer. I excepted this hence waiting this long. But now a year later i try to contact them....... nothing! I paid north of £11,000 for these parts, i think its been long enough now, can i get my money back?
Kev - 5-Jan-21 @ 9:48 AM
Hi I bought a screen and projector of a company called hazel lab. They seemed a reputed company up front. It took them 59 days just to process the order from their warehouse. I complained and said I wanted a refund as I didn’t want it any more. They ignored that and the next day they got their warehouse To send it. I have a tracking number which has no info. I want a refund. Not the product and do t want to have to send it back if it ever comes.
Tara - 2-Jul-20 @ 6:38 PM
I purchased a shower head from Stone-Stream. There was no address on their website and I assumed it was a U.K. based company. I want to return this item as it is not as described. It was dispatched from an address in the U.K.but Stone-Stream have said I have to return it to an address in Israel! They do not pay any postage either. What are my rights?
Georgina - 17-Aug-19 @ 12:20 PM
I ordered £2,500 worth of American Fanta I got the company through Alibaba but I then started talking to the company through email, we agreed a price on 3 pallets of fanta for £2,500 I paid them through Bank of Scotland international transfer. I then never got the goods I ordered so my bank contacted there bank to ask them to refund money and they said no so now I don’t really know what my options are? Can anyone help?
Ryan - 23-May-19 @ 3:09 PM
I purchased a pair of ladies work boots from what I thought was an English. company it was in fact in China. When my parcel arrived I had been sent 2 pairs of fake Rayban sunglasses. I contacted the company and was told the express picker had made a mistake I could keep the glasses and have a 20% refund. I refused and was then told if I wanted a full refund I would have to return the glasses at my expense even though thiswas their mistake. I have emailed the company numerous times the latest reply email offered 60% of my money back. Can you help pleas
Mandy - 14-Apr-19 @ 9:57 PM
I purchased a pair of ladies work boots I thought the company was in the Uk, in fact it was in China. When my parcel arrived I was sent 2 pairs of Ray ban sunglasses. I contacted the company they said it was down to the express picker who sent me the wrong item . I asked for a refund and was toldI could havea20% refund and I could keep the glasses. I refused, I was told if I wanteda full refund I would needreturn the glasses at my expense. This was their mistake not mine, they are still refusing to refund my money. I have lost count of how many emails I have sent the company. Is there anything I can do or do I have to except the fake sunglasses an d 20% thanks
Mandy - 14-Apr-19 @ 9:48 PM
Hi i ordered a two dresses from a company based on Hong Kong called Lolabuy. I've emailed them within 24hrs of the order to cancel the order. Their policy states if you cancel within 24hrs they can refund your money. Ive sent them 18 emails between 8th-10th of March they have not responded only with "why you want your order cancel". Please can you help.
Nad - 10-Mar-19 @ 4:07 PM
@Karen - fluctuations between the pound and the dollar have been up and down because of the election. However, UK-consumer laws wouldn't apply in the UK. So, I'm afraid there is little you can do here and you might have to put it down to experience.
WheresMyRefund - 14-May-15 @ 11:21 AM
I ordered a pair of trainers from an american company i paid £55.86 when i was told the trainers were no longer in stock they agreed to give me a refund but only 48.26 appeared in my bank account they now say this is due to the exchange rate is this correct?
Karen - 12-May-15 @ 11:19 AM
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