SCOTTISH retailers are facing an increasing threat from illicit traders on social media, a conference has heard.
‘What’s the Big Deal?’, organised by the Scottish Anti Illicit Trade Group and the Scottish Grocers Federation, heard the sale of fake cigarettes, alcohol and other goods is gradually moving online, making perpetrators more difficult to catch.
The event, hosted by former first minister Henry McLeish, featured speakers from HMRC, the Scottish Business Resilience Centre, Police Scotland and local councils, as well as MSPs Murdo Fraser, convener of the economy, energy and tourism committee, and Graeme Pearson, shadow cabinet secretary for justice.
Scottish Grocers Federation public affairs manager John Lee said convenience retailers face acute problems from the sale of illicit tobacco and alcohol online.
“The traditional threat to retailers from white van man has been replaced by a threat from social media,” he said. “Facebook pages are now springing up which sell illicit alcohol and tobacco, attract thousands of ‘friends’ very quickly and provide mobile phone numbers to enable customers to get in touch.
“Enforcement agencies must be given the resources to effectively combat this new threat. We must protect legitimate and responsible retailers.”
Delegates were shown an example of an illicit trader operating in the Aberdeen area, advertised through a Facebook page called ‘Del Boy Deals’, offering cheap cigarettes, alcohol and Viagra. Within a week the page had 17,000 followers.
Lee said that in the past there had been a reluctance on the part of retailers to come forward with information and more effort was required to encourage them.
He added: “They are the people who know when illicit products are being sold in their area, they tend to know who’s selling them and they definitely know the impact on their business.”
SGF’s John Lee addresses What’s the Big Deal?