Refused orders and returned packages: Mail between France and UK hit by ‘Brexit effect’

Cancelled orders, hefty charges and returned packages - these are the issues reported with the mail between France and the UK since Brexit.

Refused orders and returned packages: Mail between France and UK hit by 'Brexit effect'
Brexit is complicating package deliveries between the UK and France. Photo: AFP

Since the Brexit transition period ended on January 1st there have been new rules in place for sending parcels between France and the UK and extra customs charges in place for some items.

But when we asked readers of The Local if they had experienced problems, dozens of people replied with tales of surcharges worth much more than the value of the item, packages returned or undelivered and several companies refusing orders from within the EU.

Many people reported long delays in receiving Christmas gifts from friends and family, as well as issues with deliveries of online orders.

Since the UK became a non-EU country there are three main changes to mail deliveries – extra charges, the need for customs forms and a complete ban on certain items being posted from the UK to the EU.

READ ALSO These are the new rules for sending parcels between France and the UK

But issues reported by readers of The Local seem to exceed the new rules, with some parcels simple being returned to sender.

Meanwhile an increasing number of businesses are charging large amounts in delivery fees to cover their costs in following the new rules, or simply deciding that delivering over the EU/UK border is not worth the effort.


The issues of charges seems a little unclear at present, with the Post Office in the UK still saying that it is awaiting further clarification from the British government.

Charges apply on all items apart from documents, but the amounts charged by different firms and different courier companies seems to vary widely.


Paul Wheeler, who lives in Deux Sevres in south west France, was charged €43.50 in customs duties on a small picture that had been sent to him by his children in the UK as a birthday present.

Emma Manda, who lives in France, had a similar experience, saying: “My father sent my son a tablet via DHL for his birthday this week, I had a charge of €48.50 otherwise the delivery man would not give it to me when he came to my door.”

Harry Veitch added: “I ordered Filofax pages at £8, when they arrived DHL wanted €25 duty, I refused them, I told them to send them back.”

Susan Barrett said: “On arrival in France HDL demanded €29.50 to cover import duty/ tax before they would deliver the vitamin supplements I had ordered from the UK.”


Some people reported that their items were simply returned to sender.

Some were told it was because the items they were trying to send were not allowed. There is a fairly long list of items that are not allowed to be sent in to the EU, including anything with animal products, which rules out even a box of chocolates being sent by mail from the UK.

One reader said: “I'm a Brit living in France and recently ordered a new home office chair (£288) back in December. At first, the company in the UK said delivery to Europe would take place from January 5th, however, on January 1st I received an email stating my order had been cancelled as the company had suspended shipping to all EU countries due to new tax laws between the UK and the EU.”

Julia Ross said: “My sister in the UK posted a parcel to me in France on December 27th in order to beat the Brexit deadline. 10 days later, she received the parcel back having been stopped at customs. 

“Apparently, one of the items was not allowed into France and fortunately her address was written on the package. The post office informed her that most parcels in that situation, are destroyed. It cost her £15 postage. I don’t know the contents of the parcel as it was a present for my birthday on January 5th.

“She now will have to wait until I next visit the UK. She was angry because she'd posted it before the 31st.” 


However other senders received their parcel back with no explanation of why it had been returned.

Anthony Haigh, who lives in Centre-Val-de-Loire, said: “Item sent via DHL before Christmas was undelivered.

“Same firm attempted to supply the same item after December 31st. This was returned to depot by transport company and the supplier refunded my payment with apologies! All of these transactions through Amazon UK – I shall not bother again.”

Order refused

An increasing number of companies appear to be deciding that the new rules are simply not worth the hassle, with several customers in France told they could no longer order from UK-based websites.

Likewise customers in the UK ordering from European sites have also had their orders refused.

Jo Tait said: “I had ordered some bed linen and the company won’t deliver it as they don’t know what the charges will be.”

Christine Dickinson said: “Items ordered from UK held until January 13th as delivery company not shipping due to Brexit.” 

She added: “John Lewis no longer delivering internationally – horror of horrors!”


Several British companies including the luxury retailer Fortnum & Mason have stated that they will not be delivering to the EU for the foreseeable future.

Thank you to everyone who shared your experiences with us for this article.


Member comments

  1. Why order a Filofax diary from the UK when it’s easy to order from Filofax France? Could it be that it was off Ebay and purportedly cheaper.

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Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

A week after chaotic scenes and 6-hour queues at the port of Dover, the British motoring organisation the AA has issued an amber traffic warning, and says it expects cross-Channel ports to be very busy once again this weekend as holidaymakers head to France.

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

The AA issued the amber warning on Thursday for the whole of the UK, the first time that it has issued this type of warning in advance.

Roads across the UK are predicted to be extremely busy due to a combination of holiday getaways, several large sporting events and a rail strike – but the organisation said that it expected traffic to once again be very heavy around the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Last weekend there was gridlock in southern England and passengers heading to France enduring waits of more than six hours at Dover, and four hours at Folkestone.

The AA said that while it doesn’t expect quite this level of chaos to be repeated, congestion was still expected around Dover and Folkestone.

On Thursday ferry operator DFDS was advising passengers to allow two hours to get through check-in and border controls, while at Folkestone, the Channel Tunnel operators only said there was a “slightly longer than usual” wait for border controls.

In both cases, passengers who miss their booked train or ferry while in the queue will be accommodated on the next available crossing with no extra charge.

Last weekend was the big holiday ‘getaway’ weekend as schools broke up, and a technical fault meant that some of the French border control team were an hour late to work, adding to the chaos. 

But the underlying problems remain – including extra checks needed in the aftermath of Brexit, limited space for French passport control officers at Dover and long lorry queues on the motorway heading to Folkestone.

OPINION UK-France travel crisis will only be solved when the British get real about Brexit

The port of Dover expects 140,000 passengers, 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles between Thursday and Sunday, and queues were already starting to build on Thursday morning.