Tackling crime is one of the toughest parts of being a convenience retailer – but it’s not just theft, verbal and physical abuse, fraud and violent crime that blight local shops.
One of the most frustrating crimes affecting responsible retailers is when they lose trade because other stores in their area knowingly buy alcohol that hasn’t been duty paid.
The national impact of duty fraud is well documented. It cost the Exchequer around £1.3bn in 2012-13 alone.
The people behind this fraud are organised criminal gangs, some of whom have penetrated the wholesale market and undercut legitimate businesses at every level, and the products they sell are often counterfeit and can cause serious harm to anyone who drinks them.
ACS is working with HM Revenue & Customs as part of the Joint Alcohol Anti-Fraud taskforce, which aims to protect the responsible retailers that sell legitimate alcohol by pushing duty fraud up the agenda of HMRC and other enforcement agencies.
There are a number of measures being put in place to try and stop the distribution of non-duty paid alcohol, chief of which is the wholesaler registration scheme.
From October, wholesalers will begin the process of having to register with HMRC to be approved as legitimate. Retailers will then only be able to purchase alcohol from registered wholesalers – a move that has been welcomed across the industry.
The most powerful weapon is well established and requires no new legislation, but is sadly underused. This is the ability for local authorities to remove alcohol licences from retailers knowingly buying and selling non-duty paid alcohol.
Let’s be clear: if you’re a retailer who dabbles or regularly trades in illicit alcohol, ACS stands squarely against you, and we are pushing for your closure. Local authorities should adopt a zero-tolerance approach when dealing with businesses that are taking trade away from legitimate retailers.
We are in the process of updating our guidance for retailers on how to spot duty fraud. The current guide is available in full at www.acs.org.uk/advice.