Clients who use our ATA carnet service to travel to the EU may also trade with them virtually. This includes anyone who provides an online service for payment, or receives indirect payment, such as through advertising, or online contracting.
For two decades, virtual trade between the UK and EU has been covered by the eCommerce Directive but this ceased to apply 1st January 2021. Going forward, there is a need to comply with regulations in each EU, or EEA country where you have customers.
If your business is well managed, a fair chance you do comply but checking is important, with quite draconian fines possible. Whilst the principles of sticking to the rules are similar across the EU, there are differences, such as licencing requirements.
Trying to outline a complex position here would be misleading, if in doubt, please seek advice. Also bear in mind that regulations apply beyond selling real, or virtual goods, they can be part of giving advice, or the web domain you use.
Owning An EU Domain
Unless you are an EU based business, or an EU citizen, you are no longer allowed to register, or hold a .eu domain. In principle, registration for non eligible parties was withdrawn on 1st January 2021, although they are not available to anyone else for 12 months.
Bear in mind this will impinge on email addresses associated with a .eu domain and could extend to domains associated with individual EU countries, .fr, .de etc. Again, the rules are not identical across EU countries.
You will hopefully have received notification in advance from domain administrators such as EURid and acted in time. The scale of the change has however seen reality lag behind and in a few cases, brought poor advice.
Where you are moving to another domain, following the advice which has often accompanied notifications and government publications is not ideal. A forwarding page on the old domain will not work and a domain wide redirect can lose business.
The best answer is to set up page by page 301 redirects, which ensure anyone with a bookmark still finds you and that search engines will understand the position. This may sound complex but isn’t too bad and well worth the effort.
Most of us will remember the changes EU wide GDPR regulations brought, implemented in the UK via the Data Protection Act 2018. Whilst in theory we are now outside the GDPR zone, this has wider implications.
GDPR applies to anyone serving EU customers, not just those operating within the EU. The intention was always to influence data protection procedures across the globe.
If your operation was compliant before, this should still be the case, although a few hoops remain after the UK’s exit. As a third country, the UK needs to have issued and maintain an EU adequacy notice, along with a suitable code of conduct.
Individual operators may also have to adopt specific contractual clauses, especially if they are directly exchanging data. The reality is that in the virtual world, we are no less subject to EU laws, if we want their citizens as our clients.
Much will unravel over time, the UK government is likely to release new data privacy standards and other legislation, the new US administration may do the same.
Trading virtually is in many ways a border free business, where complying with the best standards is a rational way to proceed. This is a good way to build and maintain custom, so at least a cost with a return.
Similar thoughts apply to ATA carnets, which are often used by virtually based businesses, for visits to client countries, or trade fairs. If we can help with an ATA carnet for the EU, please get in touch at any time.