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Doing Business with Europe: IT Issues and e-Commerce

The United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union on 31 October 2019 meaning our relationship with the EU will be changing. With the deadline marching ever closer, the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, Enterprise Europe Network and the Department for International Trade recently invited businesses to attend a series of events focusing on the UK’s changing relationship with Europe and how it might affect them.

As a result, the following checklist has been drawn from the expert advice of IT specialists Freeman Clark and international business consultancy Bolst Global. This checklist by Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership is designed to highlight key points that businesses might want to consider.

  • Make sure you are up-to-date and your systems are ‘fit for purpose’

The situation is changing quickly and it’s important that you, and/or your IT team or support provider, have the right tools and information if you wish to be ready for when the UK leaves the EU. There are useful checklists available, for example from the British Chambers of Commerce or your accountants/business advisors.

  • Audit and review what export & import forms you might need

Check that these forms can be generated from your current IT systems and if not, consider how any necessary changes can be made (internally, by your vendor or via a contractor). Plan this in plenty of time, as demand for IT support is likely to increase as exit draws nearer.

  • Map your supply chain

If you are selling via e-commerce (or m-commerce), make sure that your suppliers will be able to continue to provide the stock you need without disruption, so that when a customer comes onto your website and places an order, you are able to fulfil it. It is a good idea to put contingency arrangements in place too.

  • Check your contracts and website T&Cs

It is advised to check any contracts you have with your IT vendors, as well as the T&Cs on your own website, in particular around any arrangements for the payment of VAT which may change (especially for sales to any EU based consumers). If you anticipate any system changes are required, it may be a good idea to book this early with your vendor, to avoid being beaten by any rush.

  • Consider getting Cyber Essentials certification

GDPR will remain in place after we leave the EU, so organisations will still need to comply including appointing a Data Protection Officer. You might also want to consider joining the Government-backed, industry-supported Cyber Essentials scheme, designed to help organisations protect themselves against common online threats.

  • If you have a .eu domain name, you may need to review this

Subject to any transition arrangements, the European Commission has announced that it will no longer be possible for UK companies or citizens who do not have a base in the EU to register, or renew, a .eu domain name. If this will affect you, you may wish to put other arrangements in place, so that customers and suppliers don’t “lose” you on the web.

  • Review your online presence

Your website is your shop window to the world and if you are keen to do business overseas, consider whether there are steps you could take to make it more attractive to customers in other countries. For example, you may want to consider whether translation is appropriate to attract clients (the three languages of English, Spanish and Chinese reach half the world’s population!). You might want to review the payment systems you offer, as different methods are more accepted in some countries than others, as well as any currencies used.

  • Review your digital sales channels

The rules, especially regarding the payment of VAT, may well change as we leave the EU and you will need to take this into account if you sell via e-commerce. You may want to consider using e-marketplaces, which are expected to account for over 50% of e-commerce sales in the next few years and which can prove less complex to manage, from the point-of-view of administration, although there will be a fee to pay for this.

  • If unsure, ask for advice

As the situation is changing by the day, it’s important that you have the right information to be able to act upon it. If you are unsure, seek advice from either from IT professionals or Government helplines such as those operated by HMRC. Get in touch today.