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ACS 'relieved' at ECJ duty ruling

23 November, 2006
Following the European Court of Justice’s announcement ruling against allowing consumers to buy alcohol and cigarettes at lower duties from other countries, the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has welcomed this decision but called for the Government to act on the UK’s unsustainable duty rates policy.
The ECJ ruled that only products bought for personal use for a private individual are exempt from excise duty in the country of importation. It also asserted that the goods must be transported personally by the consumer, due to an increased risk of fraud.ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “ACS is relieved that the European Court of Justice has ruled accordingly. Had cross-border trade become legal in this way it would have had a devastating effect on our market.”However, the Court did recognise that if the Commission wished to allow this form of cross border trade it would have to change its Directive aimed at harmonising the general arrangements for products subject to excise duty. This is something the Commission has previously proposed in an amendment and to succeed would require unanimous support from all member states.James Lowman continued: “The UK Government must resist attempts by the Commission to amend this Directive to promote cross border trade. “However, we need to remember that the UK Government has created an unsustainable level of duty rates that has led to one fifth of all tobacco sold in the UK being illegally imported. While ACS is relieved that the floodgates have not been opened, the Government must immediately begin work to harmonise duty rates.”