Store owners have been warned to only use trusted sources when buying alcohol after spot checks by Trading Standards found high numbers of counterfeit stock being sold.

In a series of spot checks conducted at the end of 2010 by Trading Standards, it was revealed that 26% of outlets in the South West of the country were selling counterfeit alcohol. Manchester was second on the list with 17% of outlets stocking illegal knock-off products while West Yorkshire came third with 10%.

The Federation of Wholesale Distributors chief executive James Bielby said that stores found to be stocking counterfeit produce could face penalties and loss of business.

“These shocking figures reveal the scale of this crime and demonstrate once again that retailers have to be very careful who they buy from, as trading in counterfeit goods is not only against the law, but will also ruin a shop’s reputation with its customers.”

Bielby advised retailers to watch out for irresistible offers from unknown sources. “Any experienced store owner should know if the price they are offered is too good to be true, and if the source is an established wholesaler,” he added. “They should be very careful who they source their stock from.”

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman added that ignorance is not an excuse for breaking the law. “With the new wrongdoing penalties that came into force in April last year, retailers can no longer use the excuse that they were unaware that the product was counterfeit,” he said. “The onus is on responsible retailers to ensure that the products they are selling are legitimate and from reputable sources.”