The Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) has urged retailers to check their alcohol suppliers’ Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS) numbers because dodgy suppliers are still trying to trick convenience store operators.
The FWD believes AWRS has been successful in stamping out many unscrupulous traders but David Visick, the trade body’s director of communications, said unregistered suppliers were still trying to dupe retailers into buying from them.
The FWD, which helped establish AWRS, reported that Bestway’s business development executive for the North West, Simon Hutchinson, had saved a retailer in his region from possible prosecution after the independent was offered alcohol products from a “white-van” trader.
The retailer, which Bestway asked not to be named, was aware that AWRS required him to only purchase alcohol from approved sources, but he did not know it was also his responsibility to check the wholesaler’s registration number on HMRC’s online database.
Hutchinson said: “My customer told the trader that he only used approved sources, and the wholesaler assured him he was registered and gave him a registration number.”
But something did not feel right to Hutchinson and he checked the company’s AWRS number online to discover it was a fake number.
“We then checked the company on Companies House and again that was not the one listed on the invoice.”
Hutchinson informed the retailer who challenged the dodgy supplier with the false registration number and has not heard from the rogue since.
Visick said: “Simon saved the retailer’s bacon on this occasion because the penalties for buying from an unregistered source are severe. We know that Trading Standards has been visiting stores and asking to see their alcohol receipts, so it’s vital that retailers carry out the checks as they are required to by law.”
This meant obtaining the wholesaler’s Unique Reference Number (URN) and going to the alcohol wholesaler check-up service at www.gov.uk to check the number was a genuine URN, and that the company details given matched the ones listed on the register. They also needed to keep a record that they had carried out the search, he said.
“The volume of illicit alcohol trade has dropped significantly since the introduction of AWRS in April, but there will still be a few criminals trying to trick retailers into buying from them.
“Store owners need to be aware that if a wholesaler offers them a deal on beer, wines and spirits it is absolutely their responsibility to check that supplier is registered under AWRS,” said Visick.