NFRN call for action from government on illicit trade

Retail group appears before Oireachtas committee on jobs in a bid to stem losses in the retail industry



23 May 2013

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The National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) Ireland has told an Oireachtas committee that action needs to be taken immediately to stop the retail sector haemorrhaging jobs. The group appeared before the Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and proposed a number of solutions to challenges facing businesses. NFRN Ireland president Joe Sweeney told the Committee that the problem of illicit trade and the black market continues to worsen. A report from Grant Thornton and Retail Ireland, published last month, showed that illicit trade was costing the Irish economy up to €1.5 billion a year. Sweeney told the Committee members that there have been over 47,000 job losses in the retail trade and 86% of retailers have less than 10 employees.

The group put forward several proposals to tackle illegal trading of tobacco and alcohol and requested the government’s support. The measures outlined include a new smartphone app that would scan the barcode of a product and verify whether tobacco products are counterfeit or smuggled. This would use Codentify technology, which is already established, and would be built into the barcode of the product. The NFRN also called for government to provide more port scanners. The committee was told the majority of counterfeit and smuggled goods enter Ireland through our eight commercial ports. Currently, there are two mobile scanners to cover the country, therefore leaving the other ports vulnerable. Sweeney told the Oireachtas members that investing in scanners for every port would be cost effective as the savings to the Exchequer would outweigh the initial cost of the equipment.

The committee was asked to consider supporting a proposal to criminalise consumers of illicit tobacco and also increasing the resources for Revenue to tackle the illegal trade. NFRN Ireland executive member John Prendergast told thecCommittee that minimum unit pricing for alcohol was essential in order to create a level playing field between independent retailers and multiples. The group also asked for a rate relief scheme whereby businesses that exceed a specific rateable value are faced with an additional levy which would be put into a fund to offset smaller businesses commercial rates. This model has been used in Northern Ireland where 24,000 businesses benefited from an average rate relief of €1,000.



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