Are your customers ignoring booze duty fraud?

Wholesalers believe many of their retailer customers could be purposely turning a blind eye to alcohol duty fraud, shocking new survey results reveal.

Wholesale News surveyed 500 decision makers at wholesale depots around the UK and found that 70% of them believed customers were aware that they were buying non-duty paid beer and lager from criminals.

The results come just weeks before HMRC is due to close its industry consultation into alcohol duty fraud and its proposal to put fiscal marks on cans and bottles.

The survey found that 80% of respondents had seen beer sales decrease in the past 12 months, 10% said they’d stayed the same and just 10% claimed their sales had increased. Wholesalers blamed a number of factors for seeing beer sales plummet – including competition from supermarkets (44%), and tough economic times (33%). However, 78% also blamed duty fraud for hitting sales.
And it’s popular lager brands that are disproportionately affected.

Carling and Stella came up regularly in responses, as did super strength lagers. Although at least two respondents said beer and wine were affected.

Every survey respondent (100%) believed criminals were selling non-duty paid alcohol in their area and 80% believed fiscal marks would help stamp it out. Just 10% of respondents thought it wouldn’t make any difference and 10% were unsure.

Wholesale News spoke to various wholesalers around the country about the problem. Most were understandably reluctant to speak on record about how duty fraud affected them but a West Country cash and carry operator told Wholesale News he supported the idea of duty-paid stamps: “The illegal trade has always been there and yes, I do think that it has affected my business.

‘‘I occasionally get customers telling me they can buy particular brands of beer at very cheap prices and I think to myself  ‘There’s only one way that can happen’, but anything the government can do to create a level playing field is a good thing.”

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