The first counterfeit plain packs of tobacco in the UK have been uncovered by Retail Express and trading standards departments.
Following a tip-off, Retail Express was sold a plain pack counterfeit of a premium brand by a London newsagent for £10.50. The retailer took a legitimate pack out of the gantry and swapped it out with a fake pack, while processing thecard transaction.
Doug Love, Hammersmith and Fulham Trading Standards officer warned previously: “The quality of counterfeits can be so good, unless you know what you are looking for it is incredibly difficult to spot.”
Evidence suggests the quality and prices of the plain pack counterfeits is creating a two-tier illicit trade, with cheap smuggled and counterfeit non-plain packs, and the new plain format illicit packs often passed through at RRP.
Kate Pike, co-ordinator for Trading Standards North West, told Retail Express: “Retailers selling it at full price and passing it through as legitimate represents another headache. It’s a big departure from current behaviour and those doing it will be making a small fortune.”
Trading standards departments first found small instances of the new counterfeits being sold in July, and a source told Retail Express they are “spreading south”. While the numbers remain low, the threat to retailers is high.