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A Guide to e-Commerce and Digital Services

If your business provides services cross-border on the island of Ireland or to GB, there are some changes in the rules relating to e-commerce that may apply to you.

What is e-commerce?

What are digital services?

e-commerce is the trading of goods or services over the internet. It covers goods bought and sold over the internet and subsequently delivered. It also covers digital, personal and other services provided by means of the internet. Digital services are services that are delivered over the internet or through other electronic networks. They are commonly automated and require little or no human intervention. Digital services include such things as apps, e-books, games, cloud-based software, and music streaming websites.

What has the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation agreement changed about the provision of these services?

The EU’s e-commerce package introduced changes from 1 July 2021 in respect of the movement of goods from Northern Ireland to the EU, and imports of low value goods into the EU or Northern Ireland. The package also introduces new rules for supplies made through online marketplaces, similar to those already applying in GB and partly in Northern Ireland.

The July 2021 VAT changes also affect businesses:

  • selling or supplying goods from Northern Ireland to non-VAT registered customers in the EU
  • making supplies of goods from the EU to non-VAT registered customers in Northern Ireland
  • sending low value goods to Northern Ireland (or the EU) from outside the EU and Northern Ireland (including from Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland))
  • non-EU businesses with goods located in Northern Ireland at the point of sale

It also affects online marketplaces that facilitate the sale of goods:

  • located in Northern Ireland (or the EU) by non-EU businesses to non-VAT registered customers in EU and Northern Ireland consumers
  • from Great Britain to consumers in Northern Ireland and the EU.

GOV.UK have published a Policy paper detailing the EU VAT e-commerce package.

Where can I get more support and information?

These external links offer support and important reading for UK digital service providers, and information on the new rules on holding or registering an .eu domain.

Support on what you need to do now that the e-commerce directive no longer applies to the UK:

Support for UK digital service providers about what you must do to comply with the regulations covering the security of network and information systems:

Find out what you need to do if you hold a .eu domain or want to register one, as new rules are now in place for UK businesses:


Article reviewed: 27 March 2023