Trade in goods and services between EU countries accounts for two thirds of all EU trade. In 2005, it accounted for 62.4% of Ireland's total trade.
Contracts of sale of goods, both consumer and commercial, are regulated by the Sale of Goods Acts 1893 and 1980.
Consumer contracts of sale are also regulated by the European Communities (Sale of Consumer Goods and Associated Guarantees) Regulations 2003 (S.I. No. 11 of 2003) which give effect to Directive 1999/44/EC on Consumer Sales.
Unfair terms in contracts for the sale or supply of goods to consumers are regulated by the European Communities (Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts) Regulations 1995 and 2000 (S.I. No. 27 of 1995 and S.I. No 307 of 2000) which give effect to Directive 93/13/EEC on Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts.
Information and withdrawal rights for off-premises contracts for the sale or supply of goods to consumers are regulated by the European Communities (Cancellation of Contracts Negotiated Away from Business Premises) Regulations 1989 (S.I. No 224 of 1989) which give effect to Directive 85/577/EEC on Doorstep Selling.
Information and withdrawal rights for distance contracts for the sale or supply of goods to consumers are regulated by the European Communities (Protection of Consumers in Respect of Contracts Made by Means of Distance Communications) Regulations 2001 (S.I. No. 207 of 2001) which give effect to Directive 97/7/EC on Distance Selling.
Unfair, misleading and aggressive commercial practices directly connected with the promotion, sale or supply of goods to consumers are regulated by the Consumer Protection Act 2007 (No. 19 of 2007) which gives effect to Directive 2005/29/EC on Unfair Business-to-Consumer Commercial Practices.
National and EU legislation require that products for sale are safe. EU regulations on product safety were brought into effect in Ireland in 2004.
The National Consumer Agency (NCA) is responsible for market surveillance to ensure compliance with the General Product Safety rules.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland has the responsibility to ensure that food produced, distributed or marketed in the State meets the highest standards of food safety and hygiene reasonably available and to ensure that food complies with legal requirements, or where appropriate with recognised codes of good practice.
There is a large body of national and EU legislation regulating the labelling of foodstuffs for sale in Ireland. It is required that labels on food carry a certain minimum amount of information including the list of ingredients, date of minimum durability and any special storage instructions or conditions of use, among other provisions.
Rules applying to the non-food sector include the EU/Irish regulations on General Product Safety from 2004 which specify the duties of producers and distributors and make it an offence to place unsafe products on the market.
Certain specific products, such as children's toys, must also comply with particular safety rules. There are also specific rules for labelling of textiles and footwear.
The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) develops standards for particular products in Ireland. Any products coming under a standard must meet the minimum requirements of that standard.
There are three categories of excisable products - mineral oils, alcohol and alcoholic beverages, and manufactured tobacco. Excise duties are also chargeable on certain premises or activities (e.g. on betting and licences for retailing of liquor).
Trade licensing requirements
Licences are required for the sale of certain goods, including cigarettes, alcohol, medicines and medical devices.
The supply of electricity is also subject to a licence, under the authority of the Commission for Electricity Regulation.
Permits and licences
The Department of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation - import licensing section is responsible for issuing licences to importers of goods that are subject to EU import restrictions such as quantitative restrictions or surveillance measures.
International VAT number
You are obliged to register for VAT if you are intending to sell goods within the EU and you have a turnover (in goods) above €75,000 annually. To register for VAT, you must fill in certain forms which can be obtained by telephoning the Revenue forms & leaflets service on 1890 30 67 06 or contacting any revenue office.
You must comply with certain requirements on invoices for VAT purposes. A guideline on what information is required in an invoice for VAT records is provided by the Revenue service.
Traders importing and exporting to other EU Member States must submit declarations to either one or both of the following of two EU systems:
- the VAT Information Exchange System (VIES) office, or
- Intrastat system.
Traders who export goods and/or services (to other EU countries) must submit a VIES statement either monthly, quarterly, (or annually in limited cases), and also complete a monthly Intrastat return if the total value of goods dispatched exceeds € 635,000 annually.
Traders who import goods (from other EU countries) must fill out a monthly Intrastat return if the total value of goods received exceeds €191,000 annually. These returns must be submitted in addition to the standard VAT returns (VAT3).
At present Services are not to be included in boxes E1 and E2 of the VAT3 and are not to be included in Intrastat Returns. From 01/01/2013 the VAT3 return will have 2 extra fields for Services ES1 and ES2. Services will continue to be excluded from Intrastat Returns.
The VIES and Intrastat returns must be submitted electronically via ROS (Revenue On-line Service).
Shipping certain goods
When exporting from Ireland you have to be aware of the regulations, taxes and procedures for processing export orders and for transporting and importing goods into each country you do business with.
International transport document
You may be required to provide a range of documentation when transporting your products for export, depending on the type of good, type of transport used and the destination.
Businesses can submit claims against other businesses in the Small Claims Court for claims not exceeding €2,000. Claims cannot be made in the Small Claims Court for debts, personal injuries or breach of leasing or hire-purchase agreements. The Small Claims procedure is provided through your local District Court.
On the Enterprise Ireland portal you can also find information on service providers such as freight forwarders, export financing, etc. as well as a list of government and not-for-profit organisations providing assistance to businesses.
Business access to state information and services (BASIS) delivers government information and services to businesses online. The information is structured around the lifecycle of a business. The BASIS website also provides information on importing and exporting.
The Department of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation is the government department responsible for enterprise, entrepreneurship and innovation. Its website has information on import and export licences.
The European Commission offers guidance in cases where the free movement of goods is not specifically guaranteed through EU legislation.
The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) is Ireland's national standards body. Their role is to develop standards governing safety, quality, design, performance etc. of specific products for sale in Ireland.
The National Consumer Agency provides information to businesses on consumer law.