Why can't I buy online electronics at UK based shops?

Ok, I live in the netherlands and often find that electronic products and gadgets are much cheaper at uk based online shops (most notable play.com and amaazon.co.uk). Both these shops have no problem in sending me books, dvd’s and games, and in the case of amazon they also have no problem with asking hefty shipping fees (while uk delivery is free). I’ve read at some other message bord that this is due to some electronics tax (WEE?), but since these products are sometimes tens of pounds cheaper than in the netherlands (if avaialable at all), I really wouldn’t mind paying some extra taxes.

So my question is: Why is it impossible to sell me electronics?

I wonder if it has anything to do with why I couldn’t use my American Visa card to buy plane tickets online in Brazil?

My guess would be the recent Restriction on Harmful Substances directive(EU) is to blame - lots of lead solder and mercury in consumer electronics

But that applies to the UK as well, doesn’t it?

Yes, but it applies across any national boundary, including intra-EU shipping.

So it wouldn’t raise prices preferentially in just one part of the EU.

I suspect the UK has a different distributor than Netherlands, with different pricing, and each distributor is forbidden to sell outside its territory. Either that, or left-handed UK electronics is more expensive. :slight_smile:

Thanks for your answers.

Thank god the EU has a single market with free transfer of goods…

You might also want to consider the practical difficulties of cross-border payments, postage and returns handling. If everything you have is set up for handling UK (or german, or french) customers in volume, it’s probably quite tricky/expensive to add address validation, labelling, card fraud checking, tax calculation and all the other gubbins.

Having said all that, I have on occasion ordered stuff from other countries in Europe, and I’m sure there are UK websites that ship to the continent - just not the majority of them.

Alot of Irish musicians I know use German music sites such as thomann.de to purchase equipment cheaply. There seems to be no problem with cross-border selling for them.

Im not sure its the ROSH regulations as all EU countries should be compliant. It may be the recent WEEE regulations which make all companies liable for cycling any electronic waste they sell. So if Dixons UK doesnt have an outlet or proxy in say Latvia set up to recycle an xbox, they they not be able to sell it there, and if they do have a local outlet they may want you to support it anyway rather than buy from the UK.

Also, wouldn’t the power adapters be different? Or are Europeans used to dealing with that?

The voltage is the same, and it’s easy enough to get a converter for the plug - only costs a few pounds here in the UK.


Try looking here - Export regulations in the electronics industry.

There is nothing there to prohibit export within the EU of electronics goods - potential exceptions include radio transmitters as different countries may allocate different radio bands differently. However each country may have internal regulations on electrical equipment (e.g. type and rating of plugs and fuses, grounding etc) that may effectively stop non-modified equipment being sold across borders. The WEEE regulations as mentioned above may also be the cause.

As far as I know there are no restrictions but I have always found the UK to be more expensive. In fact, I was just looking for a laptop but I want it with English-international (in other words, standard) keyboard. I was comparing several sites in different countries and it seemed there were substantial price differences so I decided to go to DELL and find out the price of the same computer in different countries.

The USA was way more expensive than the rest, about 55% higher!.
UK was more expensive than other European countries.
Belgium offers standard keyboard but not OS in English and is quite low.
Spain had lowest prices of all I checked but no standard keyboard or English OS.

I do not know if other electronics show the same price differences but, in my experience, the UK has always been more expensive than the rest of Europe.

It’s got to be a distribution networks problem. A few months back, I needed to buy MSAccess. The free or cheap programs I’d found (and the ones suggested by people here when I asked) didn’t work for what I needed. Amazon.com offered it; amazon.co.uk and amazon.es didn’t, they only offered the bundled package. MS themselves offered the separate programs in the US webpage, but change your language to Spanish and they suddenly didn’t. If I went to the US pages and asked for MSAccess to be shipped to Spain or the UK, they told me “this product can’t be shipped there, go to our EU pages” (which, in case anybody has missed it, did not sell the unbundled product dagnabit).

A few days after asking here, lo and behold, the EU pages started offering MSAccess unbundled. Hooray!

I used to buy electronics regularly from Amazon.co.uk, but they stopped shipping electronic equipment to Ireland about two years ago.

It was because of the WEEE regulations: apparently the directive applies to all of Europe, but the implementation of it varies according to the EU member state.

A lot of sites stopped shipping to Ireland at that time, when we introduced our version of WEEE, but many of them have now incorporated the WEEE requirements into their ordering process and have resumed shipments.

Amazon haven’t done so yet, and after this length of time, I suspect they won’t.

ETA: As far as I am aware, in Ireland the seller does not need to recycle the item themselves: they instead apply a levy ranging from a few cents up to maybe €20 for a big item like a fridge as a contribution to its eventual recycling. Once the levy is incorporated into the billing system, and forwarded to the recycling fund, there’s no problem with shipping electrical goods.

A friend of mine in Germany got the same problem recently - he wanted to buy electronics from a British online store, and they wouldn’t ship to Germany. That’s why he had the product shipped to my recently established English address, and I got the parcel today. It was mailed in Jersey, which could explain the reason for the problem - Jersey is under some sort of authority of the Parliament in London, but it is technically neither part of the UK nor of the EU. Apparently, it’s rather easy and duty-free to ship from Jersey to the UK, but not to other EU countries since this would mean the product would have to cross the external customs border of the Union.

So why do the stores set up their facilities in Jersey? Must have something to do with Jersey’s notoriously generous tax law, I guess.