Reviewed in November 2020. Content will be updated as negotiations develop.

Northern Ireland

Regardless of whether or not there is an EU UK future agreement, there will be significant changes for digital service providers established in the UK who provide services to customs in Ireland or elsewhere in the EU. 

If your business provides services into Ireland or elsewhere in the EU over the internet, you need to find out and adapt to the changes that will apply from 1 January 2021. The exact position will depend on your particular circumstances, including the nature of the services you provide, how they are provided, who are your customers and where in the EU they are based. 

E-Commerce

There are common EU-wide rules concerning required website information, internet contracts, data protection, digital platforms and consumer protection. Most of them will be reinstated in almost identical terms as UK law as and from 1 January 2021. However, there will be some important changes because the UK will no longer be covered by EU rules for digital services provided within the EU from 1 January 2021. 

The EU Commission has published an updated Readiness Notice on 26 May 2020 on e-commerce. It is addressed, in particular, to operators of websites, online platforms and search obligations, which would apply regardless of whether or not there is an EU UK partnership agreement, this can be viewed here

The UK Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport published updated guidance on the E-commerce Directive on 6 July 2020. It is addressed principally to UK digital service providers. This guidance is available here.

The Department has also published updated guidance on the .eu domain name, which can be viewed here.


Selling Services in the EU

The UK Government has published detailed guidance notes on selling services to the EU from 1 January 2021. For more information click here

The Government has also provided detailed guidance on the new rules and considerations that might arise in selling services into each EU state, on a country by country basis. For example, to view the guidance for Ireland, click here. To view the guidance for France, click here.

Businesses should consult the guidance in relation to each particular EU state, in or into which they provide services. 

Regulated Businesses

Some businesses are subject to authorisation or licensing because of the nature of the services they provide (e.g. financial services). If you are providing services to EU customers at present using a UK authorisation, you will need to make alternative arrangements to continue your authorisation. 

HM Treasury published guidance on the e-commerce directive insofar as it relates to financial services in October 2019. The guidance is available here

Businesses that provide online marketplaces, online search engines and cloud computing services, above a certain scale, will have new obligations after 1 January 2021. Click here to view the UK Government guidance. 

If one or more of your key clients or service providers is subject to EU based regulation, then you may need to consider and adapt to how changes in their business model may affect your business. This may be an issue for example for fintech businesses, that provide digital services to regulated financial service providers. 

Data Protection and GDPR Representatives

If your business involves collecting, holding or dealing with information relating to people, you should look at the guidance on data protection. Additional measures will be required, between the sender and recipient where data is sent from the EU to the UK after 1 January 2021, unless the EU makes an adequacy decision about the UK’s data protection rules. In the case of data sent from the UK to the EU, you should follow the guidance from the UK Information Commissioner’s Office, as to whether additional measures will be required. 

Businesses established outside the EU (including the UK after 1 January 2021), without a base within the EU, are obliged to appoint an EU representative if they offer goods and services to individuals in the EU or monitor their behaviour. The European Data Protection Board has issued guidelines concerning when this obligation applies. 

The representative, where required, acts on behalf of the non-EU business concerned in dealings with the authorities and with persons to whom the data relates. The representative is to maintain certain records and make them available to the supervisory authorities. One representative only (in any EU state) is sufficient for the whole of EU. 

The Information Commissioner’s Office has published guidance here

VAT

In some cases, in particular, where digital services are provided to consumers and non-VAT registered recipients in other EU states, it may be necessary to undertake new VAT registration and compliance obligations in the EU state concerned. VAT can be very complex, and professional advice will often be necessary. The UK Government has published guidance on the changes to how value-added tax is charged for businesses that sell digital services to EU consumers after 1 January 2021. 

Consumer Protection

Many of the important rules about doing business such as rules regarding consumer protection for the sale of goods, services, digital services and distance contracts have been harmonised throughout the EU. The UK is replacing these rules in the UK with identical rules in most cases to take effect on the first of 1 January 2021. 

The EU Commission published updated guidance on the enforcement of EU based consumer protection rules on 17 March 2020. It deals with general consumer protection rules and also specific rules for travellers. The guidance note is available here

The UK Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy published guidance in August 2019 on changes in consumer rights from 1 January 2021. It addresses principally to UK businesses. The guidance is available here

The Irish Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has published a range of information for businesses and consumers in relation to consumer rights after 1 January 2021. It is relevant to Irish consumers and to UK businesses providing cross-border services to them. To view this guidance, click here

Ireland

If your business provides services into Northern Ireland or elsewhere in the UK over the internet, you need to find out and adapt to the changes that will apply from 1 January 2021. The exact position will depend on your particular circumstances, including the nature of the services you provide, how they are provided, and who your customers are. 

E-Commerce

There are common EU-wide rules on website information, internet contracts, data protection, digital platforms and consumer protection. Most of them will be reinstated in almost identical terms as UK law as and from 1 January 2021. However, there will be some important changes because the UK will no longer be covered by EU rules for digital services provided within the EU, from 1 January 2021. 

The EU published an updated Readiness Notice on 26 May 2020 on e-commerce. It sets out the likely changes in the regulatory obligations which would apply regardless of whether or not there is an EU UK future relationship agreement. 

The UK Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport published updated guidance on the E-commerce Directive on 6 July 2020. It confirms that EU/EEA online service providers will be within the scope of UK laws, from which they were previously exempt. 

Regulated Businesses

Some businesses are subject to authorisation or licensing because of the nature of the services they provide (e.g. financial services). If you are providing services to UK customers at present using an Irish or EU authorisation, you are likely to need to make alternative arrangements to continue your authorised status in the UK. 

If one or more of your key clients or service providers are UK based businesses which need to change their authorisations in order to continue to do business in the European Union or are Irish based businesses that need to adapt to continue to do business in the United Kingdom, then you may need to consider and adapt to how changes in the way they will do business, may affect your business. This may be an issue for example for fintech businesses, that provide digital services to regulated financial service providers. 

The Central Bank which regulates the financial services sector, has published extensive guidance on Brexit related issues for financial service providers and others in the financial services industry. 

Data Protection and GDPR Representatives

Digital service providers should look at the guidance on data protection. Where you collect, hold or deal with data about another person, additional measures will be required where data is transferred from the EU to the UK after 1 January 2021, unless the EU makes an adequacy decision about the UK’s data protection rules. 

GDPR representative in the UK for EU based firms

The UK Government has indicated that businesses and organisations based outside the UK will need to appoint a UK representative if they offer goods and services to individuals in the UK or monitor their behaviour. The UK information Commissioner’s Office indicates that “The UK Government intends that after the transition period ends, the UK version of the GDPR will say that a controller or processor located outside the UK – but which must still comply with the UK GDPR – must appoint a UK representative.” 

The representative would act on behalf of the non-UK business concerned in dealings with the authorities and with persons to whom the data relates. 

The UK Government’s guidance is available here

Businesses and organisations affected should follow guidance and updates on the ICO’s website

VAT

In some cases, in particular, where digital services are provided to consumers and non-VAT registered recipients in the UK, it may be necessary to register and pay value added tax in the UK. VAT can be very complex, and professional advice will often be necessary. 

The European Commission has published guidance on the changed treatment of VAT on services from 1 January 2021. To view this guidance, click here

The UK Government has proved published guidance for those selling digital services to UK customers after 1 January 2021. To view, click here

Consumer Protection

Many of the important rules about doing business such as rules regarding consumer protection, the sale of goods, services and digital services and distance contracts have been harmonised throughout the EU. The UK is replacing these rules in the UK with identical rules in most cases to take effect on the first of 1 January 2021. 

The UK Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy published guidance in August 2019 on changes in consumer rights from 1 January 2021. The guidance is available here