23rd June 2015

Online Delivery Restrictions for Northern Ireland Consumers

The Consumer Council has today revealed to the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment that a third of online retailers apply delivery restrictions to Northern Ireland (NI).

Restrictions can include higher charges, longer delivery times and refusal to deliver to NI.  Whilst this level of exclusion is similar to other peripheral areas of the UK[1], it is ten times higher than any other region of the UK mainland.

Speaking about the research Kellin McCloskey, Head of Postal Services at the Consumer Council said “Online shopping is becoming increasing popular, with over a third of NI consumers shopping online at least once a month.   However, delivery restrictions can exclude some potential online shoppers from this increasingly important market, with NI consumers impacted particularly heavily.

“With only half of online retailers offering the same delivery service across the UK, regardless of location, many NI consumers can find themselves out of pocket, paying more for the delivery of their purchases. In instances where free[2] and standard[3] delivery were withdrawn for NI addresses consumers could end up paying on average £10.00 for ‘free’ delivery or an additional £2.71 for ‘standard’ delivery.

“Cost is not the only factor as one in five retailers indicated that delivery times would vary and almost a fifth of retailers withdrew some of the delivery options available.”

Kellin concluded “The Consumer Council plans to work in partnership with politicians, eRetailers and other UK consumer organisations, to help raise awareness of these issues and seek solutions to ensure these they are addressed.”

Chairperson of the Committee for Enterprise, Trade & Investment, Patsy McGlone, said, “The Committee considers it grossly unfair to local consumers that over a third of online retailers either do not deliver to Northern Ireland addresses or impose restrictions on what they will deliver here. It  is of particular concern that this is happening within a single EU Member State at a time when the EU Commission has plans in place for a digital single market and growth in e-commerce across all Member States.

“We are also concerned that some online retailers do not provide the relevant pre-purchase delivery information and are therefore failing comply with the Consumer Contracts Regulations which implement the EU Consumer Rights Directive.”

“The Committee would welcome the opportunity to work with the Scottish Parliament or any of the devolved institutions to help resolve this problem for the benefit of all consumers.