Shiv Gill runs several convenience stores including B&G Costcutter in Oldbury, West Midlands. He had left his parents in charge of the store when trading standards officers came into the shop and seized legitimate tobacco. The officers claimed the packaging was not compliant with tobacco legislation when they raided Gill’s store.
Explaining the incident, Gill said: “When I came back to the shop they were taking stock from my Costcutter and had already removed stock from three other shops. Despite telling the trading standards officers that I was 100% sure the stock was compliant, they insisted it was not.”
However, the officers returned the next day with the seized tobacco and admitted that they had made an error. Among the stock confiscated were Sterling cigarillos, Clan pipe tobacco and St Bruno Ready Rubbed pipe tobacco.
Following the incident, Gill called upon trading standards to improve training procedures. He said: “My family has run our store for 22 years with no problems. We operate in a community, and to have officers removing compliant stock in this way puts my store’s reputation at risk.”
“Trading standards has to do its job for the benefit of all retailers, but I am urging them to train their staff properly.”
Gill added that he understood there were increased spot checks in the area by trading standards in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games, which begins in Birmingham on 28 July.
When asked to explain the error, a Sandwell trading standards spokesperson said the stock had been seized as officers believed it was considered to be “included within the definition of being tobacco products under the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 and failed to comply with the standardised packaging requirements specified within the regulations”.
The spokesperson added: “A debrief was conducted the following day and officers were advised that the products were exempt from the full standardised packaging requirements after consultation with a regional expert. This was undertaken to ensure that officers were aware of the exempted categories of products for future reference. The goods were returned to the business owner the following morning. Officers apologised for any inconvenience caused.”
Commenting on how it helps trading standards identify non-compliant products, Imperial Tobacco anti-illicit trade manager James Hall said: “Imperial Tobacco is in regular contact with trading standards officers across the UK and Ireland.
“As a business, we have provided more than 600 witness statements this year and also are on hand to discuss latest trends, including sharing details of key developments to watch out for, such as the Track & Trace legislation when it came into force in May 2020.
“We provide updates via the Anti-Counterfeiting Group roadshows and have communication links with almost 300 trading standards officers nationwide who are able to contact us at any time to check any tobacco-related matters. We work very closely with trading standards officers to ensure all information we receive on the illicit tobacco trade is passed on swiftly.”
According to a recent report released last month by KPMG and Philip Morris International, the Midlands was one of the worst offending areas for illicit tobacco consumption across the UK and Ireland in 2021.
The West Midlands made up 23% of total illegal consumption in the year, while 21% during the period came from the East Midlands.
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