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Cross Border Channel Shoppers Protest Campaign – Action for Casualties of Customs European Shoppers Seizures. E.U. responses and actions.

e.u. commission

EU Commission responses and Actions

November 2009 (27th) – Welcome to Algirdas Semeta the new Commissioner responsible for Customs matters. We will be lobbying him hard on your behalf. We will be contacting him shortly. What would you like us to tell him? Let us know.

This is why (e-mail received as I wrote about the new Commissioner).

"Came back from a 2 day business trip last week along with my wife and was stopped by customs and had all our wine and baccy taken from us and most importantly they seized my car, which was worth quite a bit. We only had the guide lines for both and not a boot full!. Because i had been before and bought before then we are criminals and apparently are selling the goods, i have an import and export company and that was why we were in France and Belgium, but that made no difference. We were held in seperate rooms for nearly two hours and asked a million questions, mainly on how many ciggs we smoked. It made no difference,they were having our goods and that was it. Another couple also had there goods and car seized at the same time. This practice is just disgusting,they are like others have wrote before a law upon themselves, so smug and you can tell that they are laughing at our expence. I could write a lot more about what happened, but people beware – we only had a carrier bag of baccy and lost the car for that. I went on a legitimate business trip and need to go again next week, but i have no car now! Keep up the campaign to stop this happening to genuine shoppers and travellers."

October 2009 – Goodbye and good riddance Mr. Kovacs? As Mr. Kovacs nears the end of his period as Commissioner responsible for British Customs, we wish him a hearty good riddance. Nothing has been done by his office to help British shoppers, in marked contrast to his predecessor who fought hard for individual citizens rights.

October 2005 – Welcome to the new Taxation and Customs Commissioner Laszlo Kovacs, who takes over from Frits Bolkestein.

We also hear that despite the British Government complaining that they were not being treated fairly and given a chance to put new proposals to the Commission, at the end of November nothing had been heard from them. Seems clear therefore that their media comments were just an attempt to hoodwink the Commission – no wonder they got angry and decided to refer the case to the European Court of Justice! Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Well done Mr. Brown and Mr. Healey – you are responsible for more wasted public expenditure on legal fees on a case which your own Counsel say you will lose hands down.

September 2004 – We hear that there will be a meeting the Commission and the United Kingdom Government early October.

August 2004 – All the rumours have been untrue – the Commission have now given a "reasoned opinion", which basically explains why they want the United Kingdom Government to change its procedures.

February 2004 – We hear disturbing news that the Commission have accepted some of the arguments put by the United Kingdom Government. We have had a response from Mr. Bolkestein's office to say the Infringement proceedings remain "alive". None of our specific questions have been answered though. It's not just our own Government that is letting us down. What we asked

November 2003 – the next stage begins! Not satisfied with the United Kingdom Governments responses, another letter, the last we hope before infringement proceedings begin in the Courts has been sent. This time they have written to the Spanish Government as well – seems the many e-mails we send are having effect. Our Press Release.

December 2002 – Although the Government responded late (but then there was the Hoverspeed landmark High Court case), there was little response from the Commission. However it does now seem likely they will be going ahead with infringement proceedings.

September 2002 – The Commission at last took a further step to force the British Government to tow the line, by issuing another request for information.

June 2003 – We hear that the proceedings remain "alive".

July 2002 – At a meeting in July 2002, two Lib Dem MEP's were told that as the Government appeared to have taken into account the Commissions reservations (C and E had produced a new leaflet) they would be monitoring the situation closely for a while. We found this response disappointing to say the least.

December 2001 – The Government responded just before Xmas 2001, after which the Commissioner did very little.

2001 – Hopes were raised in 2001 when the Mr. Bolkestein the European Commissioner, started the first stage of Infringement proceedings against the British Government.

HELP! – if you have any comments or tips that will help advance the cause of channel shopping, please contact us

The information contained within this web site is intended to act as a general guide only, and does not form any offer or legal contract, whether actual or implied.

Customs and VAT matters are complex, and you should seek practical advice and assistance from a professional source rather than rely on the contents of this web site.

European Commission

Latest letter from the European Commission to the United Kingdom and Spanish Governments

IP/03/1539

Brussels, 12th November 2003

Cross-border shopping: Commission asks Spain and the United Kingdom for information over travellers' rights to bring home alcohol and tobacco

The European Commission has decided to send formal requests for information to Spain and the United Kingdom about their application of E.U. law relating to excise duties and cross-border shopping. The Commission is concerned that the practices of these two Member States may jeopardise the right of all E.U. citizens to buy goods in other Member States, excise duty paid, and to bring these products home for their own use without any formalities and without having to pay taxes a second time. In the case of Spain, the Commission is concerned that the authority's are imposing unjustified restrictions and requirements on private individuals wishing to leave the country with cigarettes that they have bought there, duty paid. In the case of the United Kingdom, the request concerns the United Kingdom policy of seizing goods even for minor offences and follows on two earlier letters (see IP/01/1482 and IP/02/1320). The Commission is concerned that these sanctions may be disproportionate to the gravity of the offence and be an obstacle to the free movement of excise goods in the Internal Market. Both requests take the form of ‘letters of formal notice’ under the infringement procedures laid down in Article 226 of the EC Treaty. The United Kingdom and Spain are asked to reply within two months.

Frits Bolkestein, the European Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union, said "I recognise and support strongly Member States' efforts to fight excise duty fraud, but this must not be at the expense citizens' rights to take full advantage of the Internal Market."

Spain

The Commission has received complaints from holiday-makers that, as they were about to leave Spain to return home, cigarettes they had purchased excise duty paid in Spain were seized by the authority's. According to these complaints, the goods were seized as the holiday-makers concerned were unable to produce the documents that must accompany commercial consignments. It also appears that the Spanish authority's considered the goods to be held for commercial purposes simply on the basis of their quantity.

The Commission considers it contrary to E.U. rules on cross-border shopping to assume that all goods in excess of certain quantities are held for commercial purposes and to demand that the private individual holding the goods conforms with the requirements for commercial consignments. In the Commission's view, this would deprive citizens of their Internal Market rights. This obstacle is just as unacceptable when applied to goods leaving a Member State as it is when applied to people carrying goods into another Member State.

The Commission will analyse whether or not there is a violation of E.U. law in the light of the information it has requested from the Spanish authority's.

United Kingdom

The Commission understands that under its present sanctions policy, the United Kingdom distinguishes between offenders holding goods with a view to selling them for profit, and those who hold goods for reasons that fall outside the notion of "own use", but without seeking to make a profit.

For this latter category of cases, the Commission understands that the policy is to seize the goods, which are not then restored. Any vehicle used for the transport of the goods can also be seized, and may not be returned, or returned only on certain conditions.

The seizure of property is, by its very nature, a severe and intrusive sanction. It may be justified for certain situations but the Commission is concerned that, when applied to minor fiscal offences of a "not for profit" character, it may go further than is strictly necessary and thus become an unacceptable obstacle to the free movement of goods. The Commission takes the view that, for these cases, the purpose of the sanctions could be achieved by lesser means such as the collection of the duties and payment of a penalty linked to the amount of duty due.

Procedure

These requests for information take the form of "letters of formal notice", the first stage of the infringement procedure laid down by Article 226 of the EC Treaty to ensure that all E.U. Member States uphold the rules agreed at European level. The authority's of the Member States have two months to respond to the letter of formal notice.

In the absence of a satisfactory reply, the Commission may proceed to the second stage of the infringement procedure, a formal request for the Member State to change its practices, in the form of a so-called ‘reasoned opinion’. Ultimately, the Commission can refer a Member State to the European Court of Justice for failure to apply E.U. law properly.

The right to buy tobacco and alcohol abroad

When people buy products subject to excise duty (such as tobacco products and alcoholic beverages) for private use in a Member State and then transport these products to another Member State, the excise duties on those goods must be paid in the Member State where they are bought. In other words, no excise duties should be paid in the Member State to which they are then taken. This includes alcohol and tobacco products for personal consumption, for use as gifts or any other non-commercial use. This is stipulated in Article 8 of Directive 92/12/EEC, agreed unanimously by E.U. Member States in 1992.

If, on the other hand, the products are held for commercial purposes, the excise duties are payable in the Member State of destination (Articles 7 and 9 of Directive 92/12/EEC). If a person holds goods for commercial purposes without paying the excise duties in the Member State of destination, the latter can impose sanctions. However, Community law requires any such sanctions to be proportionate to the gravity of the infringements and to go no further than is strictly necessary to achieve their purpose.

The role of guidelines for personal use

Directive 92/12 includes guidelines to assist Member States in determining whether products being taken from one Member State to another are for private use or for commercial purposes. In particular, Member States must take account of the commercial status of the person holding the products and his reasons for holding them, the place where the products are located, the mode of transport used (e.g. lorry), any document relating to the products (e.g. invoice), and the nature and quantity of the products themselves. To assess whether the quantity of goods being transported may indicate that they are for commercial purposes, Member States may lay down guideline levels, solely as a form of evidence. These guideline levels may not be lower than:

– 800 cigarettes

– 400 cigarillos (cigars weighing not more than 3 g each)

– 200 cigars

– 1 kilogramme smoking tobacco

– 10 litres of spirit drinks

– 20 litres of intermediate products (such as fortified wine or sherry)

– 90 litres of wines (including a maximum of 60 litres of sparkling wines)

– 110 litres of beers.

Individual circumstances must be taken into account

In applying these rules, national authority's must take all the relevant circumstances in each particular case into account, and may not, as a general rule, give particular weight to a single factor, such as the quantity of the products.

For example, if the quantities held by a person are more than the guideline levels, the authority's may take into account the fact that a person is occasionally travelling to another E.U. country to buy alcohol or tobacco products for example for a wedding or a big party.

Equally, if an individual is carrying less than the guideline levels, the authority's may nonetheless take into account the fact that, for example, a particular person has been identified by surveillance operations as being involved in illicit sales of products subject to excise.

Jonathan Todd:02/299 41 07

Linda Cain:02/299 90 19

The Governments response (or lack of it)

NR 94/02 – 21 November 2002

United Kingdom RESPONDS TO EUROPEAN COMMISSION ON CROSS-CHANNEL TOBACCO SMUGGLERS

The Government today replied to the Commissions further enquiry about Customs approach to tackling cross-Channel passenger smuggling of tobacco and alcohol.

In its response the United Kingdom has reaffirmed its:

– absolute support for the principle of unrestricted cross-border shopping for own use within the E.U.'s Single Market.

– determination to tackle the smuggling of tobacco and alcohol for illicit resale in the United Kingdom.

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. The European Commission wrote to the United Kingdom Government on 23 September

Requesting further information be provided to them by today on the United Kingdom's approach to tackling cross-Channel passenger smuggling of tobacco and alcohol.

2. The Governments reply reiterates the announcements made by the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Healey MP, on 29 October which mean:

– the United Kingdom had the highest indicative levels for tobacco in the EU, at 3,200 cigarettes and 3kg of hand rolling tobacco – six months supply for the average smoker, but this was reduced to 800 cigarettes and 1 Kg of rolling tobacco on 1st October 2011;

– the burden of proof in cases of commercial intent now lies with Customs and is framed in legislation; and

– the United Kingdoms vehicle confiscation policy is even more clearly focused on the large scale and inveterate excise smuggler.

3. The Government has explained that it believes these measures provide the travelling public with clear reassurance on their right to shop for alcohol or tobacco for their own use within the EU, while enabling Customs to redouble their efforts to stop the smugglers of tobacco or alcohol – and the disorder they cause – from ruining the enjoyment of honest cross-border shoppers. That this balance is effectively struck is demonstrated by a 42% rise in legal cross-border shopping for alcohol and tobacco during the same period in which cross-Channel passenger smuggling has been cut by more than three quarters.

4. The Commissions enquiry centred on three broad areas:

– The basis on which Customs stop travellers;

– How tobacco and alcohol for own use is distinguished from that brought in for resale; and

– Seizure of vehicles used in smuggling attempts

5. In response the Governments has explained that:

– Customs only stop cross-Channel travellers for excise purposes where they have reasonable grounds for suspecting that a traveller may be smuggling excise goods. Less than one tenth of one per cent of the 14 million passengers who cross the Channel each year have goods seized.

– The quantity of goods being carried is just one of a series of factors specified in E.U. law which Customs take into account when determining whether they believe goods are intended for resale rather than own use. Customs officers almost always get complex judgements, made in difficult circumstances, about who is smuggling and who is shopping, right. Over the past two years three- quarters of those who had goods seized chose not to make any sort of appeal.

Of those that did, the judgements of Customs' staff were overwhelmingly supported – the courts reversing fewer than 0.1 per cent of decisions and the tribunals or internal reviews overturning just one per cent.

– Customs use an array of sanctions against excise fraud. Like most Member States the United Kingdom has legal provisions that permit the seizure of vehicles used in smuggling attempts. Other Member States adopt a similar approach. Customs vehicle seizure and restoration policies are applied in a proportionate and graduated way so that they bite hardest on the 'professional bootleggers' but provide for restoration for small-scale first time offenders.

Commission asks United Kingdom for more details of rules applied to cross-Channel shoppers

DN: IP/02/1320 Date: 18/09/2002

TXT: EN DE NL

PDF: EN DE NL

DOC: EN DE NL

IP/02/1320

Brussels, 18th September 2002

Commission asks United Kingdom for more details of rules applied to cross-Channel shoppers

The European Commission has decided to ask the United Kingdom for additional information about its application of E.U. law relating to excise duties on tobacco and alcohol. All E.U. citizens have a right to buy tobacco and alcohol in other Member States, duty paid, for non-commercial use and to bring these products home. The Commission is concerned that the controls currently being applied at United Kingdom ports, and the sanctions being applied when United Kingdom excise duty law is breached, may breach the E.U. rules which give travellers the right to shop abroad. Following its analysis of the United Kingdoms reply to its first letter sent in October 2001 (see IP/01/1482) and new developments in United Kingdom policy, the Commission wants to clarify certain points. For example, it has questions concerning the circumstances in which there is a presumption that the goods are being imported for commercial use and concerning the vehicle seizure policy being applied by customs officers. The Commissions letter is in the form of a so-called "additional letter of formal notice", the first stage of the infringement procedure used to ensure that all E.U. Member States uphold the rules agreed at European level. In the absence of a satisfactory reply, the Commission may proceed to the second stage of the infringement procedure a formal request for the United Kingdom to change its practices, in the form of a reasoned opinion. Ultimately, the Commission can refer a Member State to the European Court of Justice for failure to apply E.U. law properly

"Frits Bolkestein, the European Commissioner for Taxation and the Internal Market, commented "The European Commission understands and supports the United Kingdoms efforts to tackle excise fraud. However, the fight against fraud must not be used to dissuade people from shopping, for non-commercial purposes, wherever they like within the Community. Cross-border shopping within the Internal Market is a fundamental right under E.U. law and should not be regarded as a form of tax evasion, even if it does give rise to revenue losses for the United Kingdom exchequer. We have received comprehensive information from the United Kingdom authority's but a few points remain to be straightened out. I am confident that we will able to work with the United Kingdom authority's to ensure full compliance with E.U. law while safeguarding United Kingdom efforts to tackle genuine smugglers." Additional request for information

The Commission has carefully analysed the United Kingdoms reply to the first letter of formal notice which it sent to the United Kingdom in October 2001. However, the Commission considers it necessary to request additional information from the United Kingdom on several points such as:

* How a private individual can satisfy the United Kingdom authority's that he is holding tobacco or alcohol for his own use rather than for a commercial purpose (which would make him liable to paying excise duties in the United Kingdom;

* the grounds on which the United Kingdom authority's may stop and check travellers entering the United Kingdom from another Member State;

* the proportionality of the penalties (in particular the seizure of vehicles) applied in the case of breaches of excise law by such travellers.

This second letter is a complement to the initial "letter of formal notice". The Commission will take the United Kingdoms reply into account when it determines whether or not it considers that the United Kingdom is acting in conformity with Community law. The British authority's will have two months to respond.

Travellers' right to buy tobacco and alcohol abroad.

When private individuals buy products subject to excise duty (such as tobacco products and alcoholic beverages) for private use in a Member State and then transport these products to another Member State, the excise duties on those goods must be paid in the Member State where they are bought. In other words, no excise duties should be paid in the Member State to which they are then taken. This includes alcohol and tobacco products for personal consumption, for use as gifts or any other non-commercial use. This is stipulated in Article 8 of Directive 92/12/EEC, agreed unanimously by Member States in the E.U.'s Council of Ministers in 1992.

If, on the other hand, the products are held for commercial purposes, the excise duties are payable in the Member State of destination.

The role of guidelines for personal use.

The Directive includes guidelines to assist Member States in determining whether products being taken from one Member State to another are for private use or for commercial purposes. In particular, Member States must take account of the commercial status of the person holding the products and his reasons for holding them, the place where the products are located, the mode of transport used (e.g. lorry), any document relating to the products (e.g. invoice), and the nature and quantity of the products themselves. To assess whether the quantity of goods being transported may indicate that they are for commercial purposes, Member States may lay down guideline levels, solely as a form of evidence. These guideline levels may not be lower than:

* 800 cigarettes

* 400 cigarillos (cigars weighing not more than 3 g each)

* 200 cigars

* 1 kilogramme smoking tobacco

* 10 litres of spirit drinks

* 20 litres of intermediate products (such as fortified wine or sherry)

* 90 litres of wines (including a maximum of 60 litres of sparkling wines)

* 110 litres of beers.

Individual circumstances must be taken into account

In applying these rules, national authority's must take all the relevant circumstances in each particular case into account, and may not, as a general rule, give particular weight to a single factor, such as the quantity of the products. For example, if an individual is carrying less than the guideline levels, the authority's may take into account the fact that a particular person transports tobacco and/or alcoholic beverages on a very regular basis, or runs a public house or restaurant, or indeed that a person may have been identified by surveillance operations as being involved in illicit sales of products subject to excise.

Equally, even if the quantities held by a person are more than the guideline levels, the authority's may take into account the fact that a person travels to another E.U. country to stock up on alcohol or tobacco products only a few times per year or is holding a wedding or a big party.

The Member States have the authority to establish the domestic provisions to uphold the E.U. rules on excise duties. But the controls applied must not interfere with the basic principle of the free movement of goods within the Internal Market.

Member States are also, in principle, free to determine the sanctions applicable when excise duty law is breached. However, these sanctions must conform with the general principles of E.U. law, in particular with the principle of proportionality. This means that sanctions applied must not be disproportionate to the gravity of the infringements.

Up-to-date information on infringements against all Member States can be found at:

Making a complaint against a Member State. ec.europa.eu

From The Commissioners Office in reply to an e-mail from us (August 2002)

Dear Mr. Ash,

Thank you for your e-mail. I apologise for the delay in replying but I was on holiday.

I was delighted to see that the United Kingdoms High Court has addressed United Kingdom Customs' policy and practices as regards legitimate cross-border shoppers.

The European Commission takes this issue very seriously, which is why we opened infringement procedures in 2001 and publicised that procedure.

I am sure that the United Kingdom Government would have wished us to close the case a long time ago. We have not done so because we are still not satisfied that the United Kingdom is respecting its obligations under Community law. That is why we are continuing our inquiries and analysis of the situation.

Infringement procedures are rarely rapid. This is partly because they are a dialogue with the Member State concerned and because the objective is to reach a solution, in terms of ensuring Community law is complied with, rather than to pursue a mechanical process. Moreover, infringement procedures can only lead to either a clarification of whether or not a Member States laws and/or practices are compatible with Community law or a change of policy on the part of the Member State concerned.

Infringement procedures do not themselves give individuals redress (e.g. damages), even if a change of policy by a Member State may benefit individuals and, if it gets that far, a ruling by the Court of Justice may be invoked before a national Court to justify an action for damages or an injunction. In fact, individuals are not obliged to wait for a ruling by the Court of Justice in Luxembourg before they seek redress before a national Court, because national courts are perfectly entitled to interpret Community law themselves. This is precisely what has happened in the Hoverspeed case.

Commissioner Bolkestein's Press Office.

E-mail to Mr. Todd and Others at the Commission

1st August 2002.

Dear Mr. Todd,

We have had communication in the past about this issue.

I run a web magazine for channel shoppers called Day-tripper.net and now enjoy over 41,000 unique visitors a month.

I called today during an interview for Meridian TV for a full Public Enquiry run by the E.U. Parliament to investigate fully this sad affair.

I suggested that the actions of HM Government should be examined and those responsible bought to account. I have also called for the role of the Commission to be examined as frankly we have been badly let down by the lack of action on what is a very clear and fundamental breach of E.U. Law.

This must never be allowed to happen again, here or in any other E.U. Member State.

I would like a reply from the Commissioner telling me what he now proposes to do.

Yours sincerely

David Ash

Editor – Day-tripper.net, the web magazine for channel shoppers.

Letter given to Mr. Bolkestein in Brussels – 20th November 2001

Mr. F. Bolkestein,

The European Commission,

200 rue de la Loi,

1049. Brussels.

Dear Mr. Bolkestein,

Thank you very much for meeting us to discuss the problems we have been having with British Revenue and Customs.

I run a web magazine for British citizens who shop in France and Belgium, a popular pastime for many people. I am a partner in a business in the Czech Republic selling British and French goods. I therefore travel frequently to France and Belgium in the course of my work for my web magazine, and every 6 weeks to Prague, Czech Republic. I am a passionate European.

I have never been in Court or been convicted of any criminal or civil offence. My driving licence is clean, apart from a minor speeding fine 16 years ago.

The huge differences in prices between the United Kingdom and France and Belgium encourage people from all over the United Kingdom to travel to the European mainland, to buy a wide range of good value items, wine and tobacco leading the field.

I myself do not smoke and never bring back tobacco for anyone. I do enjoy French wine and have shopped in France for over 20 years. Indeed I cannot remember when I last bought a bottle of wine in England. It should be noted that it is not possible to fit into a standard family car the wine or beer allowances.

What began as a hobby has mushroomed into a web site currently enjoying over 29,000 unique visitors a month looking at over 300,000 pages. The site has an active message board from which I get a lot of useful information. Although I make no money from the site, I get many e-mails on a wide range of tourist and shopping matters, probably because English people are generally frightened of dealing with any company where English may not be spoken.

I am a Liberal European and civil liberties matter to me. I resent being stopped and questioned like a criminal every time I travel just because I travel frequently. I bitterly resent being stopped on the way out (in Dover) to be asked where I am going. It makes me feel like an East German.

I urge you to treat this whole episode with the gravity decent European Government demands, for the following good reasons;

– Intimidation should never be part of a Governments procedure. It has gone far enough in the United Kingdom that citizens feel they cannot travel (I even get phone calls from people asking me if they will be allowed to travel to France again, and when).

– As Europeans we should have the right to travel freely – the effect of British Revenue and Customs actions is to frustrate and actively curtail that right.

– As Europeans we should have the right to shop freely in other E.U. countries. Surely the whole purpose of open frontiers is to encourage interaction and competition? The actions of British Revenue and Customs is preventing this from taking place.

– Tramples on the basic Human Rights of United Kingdom Citizens. Did you know that cars are sold even before an appeal is acknowledged? What is the point of having an appeals procedure if your guilt is established beyond doubt, even before your appeal is heard?

– It is unfair. You may not have a Solicitor present when being interviewed and are not entitled to a copy of their notes even though you have to sign them.

– Walk or talk. Encouraging people to walk (and presumably avoid a criminal record – the effect of their questioning) or stay (and wait for hours) for an interview, is not an appropriate form of behaviour for an officer of the law.

– The penalty is disproportionate to the crime. Real criminals do not even go to prison for far worse crimes, and never get their cars confiscated. They even get the fare home when released from prison. Shoppers do not.

– No evidence needed – cars have been seized because they conclude that if you have a certain amount on you this time, you must surely have had the same amount each time you have travelled, and are therefore a smuggler.

– Family Values, most people will buy for their families and accept money. Despite making no profit, these people are "smugglers" and lose their cars.

– Drug dealers, child pornographers and other professional smugglers pass by unmolested. This offends decent people.

– Honesty does not pay. One could lie and say one smoked 50 a day and get through. The current "campaign" is criminalising people.

– Professional smugglers do not use cars to smuggler tobacco – they go on foot as they cannot be punished. The current campaign affects the law abiding citizen in the overwhelming majority of cases, whilst not affecting the smuggler.

– House raids. Peoples houses are being searched after they are let through without the need for a search warrant. Apparently this can be done for up to seven years after you have passed through a port.

– Monitoring. How can it be right for a State to so closely monitor its citizens when they are not known criminals?

– It discriminates. People in Kent can travel every day. Someone from the North of England cannot. Yet these people are losing their cars because they are buying more.

– Frequent travellers with tobacco are even being told that they may not travel again for 3 to 6 months. This must be wrong.

– Old people and children. During the questioning (which goes on for 2 – 3 hours), no refreshment are offered to them. If the car is confiscated no offer of help is given to help people find their way home, even if it far away.

– Documents other than passports required. You are expected to be able to prove what you earn, what your disposable income is and what savings you have. Europeans can travel with I.D. cards only, United Kingdom Citizens require passports, proof of earnings, and even bank statements (you are expected to have them if questioned).

The situation is clearly out of hand. I urge you to;

1 – Appoint an independent enquiry to look into every case of confiscation, especially those involving vehicles. This is only way to establish if those penalised are in fact smugglers (I would strongly suggest that by E.U. standards the vast majority would prove to be ordinary shoppers). A questionnaire could easily be sent to every victim.

2 – Full compensation. Victims must be compensated and those responsible for daring to trample on the rights of E.U. citizens to travel and shop without fear, publicised.

3 – Rules put in place to ensure that never again can the British Government treat its citizens in such a contemptible way.

A strong and decisive lead from Europe on this issue, one which has affected a very considerable number of people (if you include those who are greatly offended by the line of questioning and assumptions) will do much to enhance the value of the E.U. in the United Kingdom. I urge you to be strong – we need you.

Yours sincerely

David Ash

Webmaster – Day-tripper.net – the web magazine for channel shoppers.

What Mr. Bolkestein sends to MP's and MEP's

Your Rights. Note there is nothing in here about frequency of travel being taken into account.

Answer given by Mr. Bolkestein on behalf of the Commission

(29 October 2001)

Under Article 8 of Council Directive 92/12/EEC of 25 February 1992 on the general arrangements for products subject to excise duty and on the holding, movement and monitoring of such products, the excise duty on products which are acquired by private individuals for their own use and transported by them shall be charged in the Member State in which the goods are acquired. If, on the other hand, products acquired in a Member State are held for commercial purposes in another Member State, the excise duty is levied in the Member State in which the products are held.

In the case of private individuals returning to a Member State with excisable goods acquired in another Member State, the excise duty treatment of the goods therefore depends on the purpose – commercial or private – for which the goods are held. In Article 9(2) of Directive 92/12/EEC, instructions are given on how to proceed when establishing this purpose.

The Member States' authority's must base their determination on all relevant aspects in the particular case, and at least all the criteria enumerated in Article 9(2):

– The commercial status of the holder of the products and his reasons for holding them;

– The place where the products are located or, if appropriate, the mode of transport used;

– Any document relating to the products;

– The nature of the products;

– The quantity of the products.

As concerns the last criterion, the quantity of the products, the Member States may choose to lay down certain guide levels, which may not be lower than the levels fixed in Article 9(2) of Directive 92/12/EEC. These levels may serve solely as a form of evidence. Member States which choose to avail themselves of the possibility to lay down guide levels are free to determine how this rule should be incorporated into their national law of evidence.

However, in the Commissions view, the principle remains that the Member States' authority's must establish, taking into account all the criteria of Article 9(2), whether the goods are held for commercial purposes or private use. They may not base their determination exclusively or predominantly on a single criterion, be it the quantity of the products or any other aspect, and then, in effect, leave it to the individual to prove that the products are held for another purpose.

As concerns the sanctions applied in the event of an infringement of excise duty law, the Member States are, in the absence of harmonised Community rules, in principle free to determine their own system of sanctions. These must however respect the general principles of Community law, and in particular the principle of proportionality. This means that the sanctions must not go beyond what is necessary to achieve their objectives.

The Commission is at present looking into complaints concerning the way the United Kingdom has transposed certain aspects of Directive 92/12/EEC into national law. The Commission is awaiting the outcome of this investigation to determine whether, in its view, the United Kingdom has faithfully implemented the Directive.

E-mail sent to Mr. Bolkestein's Office – 4th February 2004. The reply

Dear Mr. Todd

I have just been speaking to someone who was keenly pursuing a case against Customs for seizure of goods and a car. He had engaged the best counsel – Miss Jessica Simor, who has participated or led in most of the cases which have come to the High Court

Miss Simor says the Commission has copped out and effectively pulled the rug from under her feet by not pursuing infringement proceedings. She says the Commission has accepted the arguments put forward by the United Kingdom Government

It was only while infringements proceedings were active that she felt we could challenge United Kingdom law. Now this no longer the case she feels the only option is to take legal action against the Commission. But who has the money to do that?

In her view there is now no practical way to proceed. Her arguments had revolved around the fact that the Commission were taking action for breach of E.U. Directives

Is this true? I simply can't believe the Commission would do this – please let me know what exactly the position is

What has happened to the third letter to the United Kingdom Government – the response was due mid January?

I hope that the Commission have not let us all down. If only because this problem is Europe wide and will become endemic from May when the new states accede

There really is a need for a proper enquiry into this whole affair

It would be interesting to know what the Commissions view is of all those tens of thousands of people who have so unfairly had goods and vehicles confiscated. What can they do now?

The reply from Mr. Bolkestein's office

"The infringement case is still open. We are in the process of studying the United Kingdoms reply to the latest letter of formal notice."

Regards, Jonathan Todd

Useful Outside links

EU Commission. europa.eu

European news. www.euractiv.com

Buy a copy of CEMA1979 on line (ISBN 0105402796). www.tso.co.uk

Decisions (very comprehensive listings). www.bailii.org

telegraph newspaper – The Daily Telegraph has been the most supportive newspaper for Channel shoppers. www.telegraph.co.uk

More – we have listed all the links you may find of use here

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