News Too good to be true

Top Tips - ensure training and systems are in place to avoid sellers of fake alcohol

Often, if a deal is too good to be true, then it is really one to be avoided.

Unfortunately, operators and licensed premises are still at risk of being conned into purchasing and subsequently selling counterfeit alcohol.
There are serious consequences if operators are found in possession of fake alcohol. The Secretary of State's Guidance states that where a review of a premises licence arises in connection with the sale of 'smuggled' alcohol, revocation of the premises licence, 'even in the first instance - should be seriously considered'. However, ultimately, the sale of counterfeit alcohol which results in death could result in a criminal prosecution of an individual or even a company.
 
It is important that operators and licensed premises protect their customers and their livelihood by employing proper systems and training to avoid putting lives and their premises licence at risk.
 
The checklist below is not exhaustive, but it identifies some of the things operators should consider incorporating in their systems and training, to help avoid the unscrupulous few selling fake alcohol.

  • Avoid purchasing alcohol from the back of a “white van”, especially if the seller arrives unannounced or makes you an offer too good to be true;
  • All purchases should be made from a reputable wholesaler.
  • From 1 April 2017, operators of licensed premises are under a legal duty to make sure any wholesalers they buy from are registered with HMRC. HMRC will be introducing an online service for these checks. In the meantime do your own checks with the wholesaler.
  • Ensure that a valid, printed VAT receipt is obtained itemising the delivery and showing the wholesaler’s details, landline, address etc;
  • Counterfeit alcohol is often in the form of spirits. Any bottles of spirits 35cl or larger and 30% abv must show a duty stamp, either as a stamp or embossment in the bottle;
  • If bottles do not have sealed caps then do not buy or sell them;
  • Check the validity of any bar codes found on bottles;
  • Check the packaging for incorrect information or spelling mistakes - if in doubt, do not purchase or sell it;
  • Check the contents of the bottle to identify any layering, unusual colouring or particles. If you have your suspicions, then it is likely the alcohol is counterfeit;
  • Smell the liquid to identify whether there is any essence of petrol, anti-freeze, chemicals etc;

If you have any doubts about a wholesaler, the contents of a delivery or a stock of alcohol then do not turn a blind eye.  Ensure that you contact and notify the police or your local Trading Standards Officer.