On this page;
Cross Border Channel Shoppers Protest Campaign – Action for Casualties of Customs European Shoppers Seizures. Tips and information.
The system has been designed to frustrate shoppers rights. Just try appealing and you will soon understand. Here are some useful tips on how to handle Customs. Day-tripper.net is giving this information out in the interest of the civil rights of British Citizens travelling to Europe.
Now that we are getting e-mails from people asking if they will be allowed to go abroad again, and have shoppers even being told by HM Revenue and Customs Officers that they cannot travel for anything up to six months, it is clear our campaign against their abuse of power must be stepped up.
Sadly the level of abuse by HM Revenue and Customs Officers has reached such a level that we feel that dishonesty is the best policy. Too many honest people are being caught out by the underhand, intimidatory and frightening tactics now employed. If the actions of HM Revenue and Customs were subject to Criminal Law, shoppers and travellers could go to town on them. United Kingdom Customs legislation is under the civil head, meaning that the balance of probabilities, allows for UKBA officers to make assumptions about your intentions.
Imagine if the Police behaved in the same way Customs Officers do? You would get a speeding ticket because your car is capable of breaking the speed limit, even if you were not in it.
Remember, Civil law = NO legal aid. Case Studies
If you have a tips on how to get around or deal with HM Revenue and Customs and their campaign against the right to shop in Europe please e-mail us
Day-tripper.net is a web magazine devoted to the interests and rights of British Citizens shopping in other E.U. Member states. We deplore the actions of HM Revenue and Customs and the New Labour Governments campaign of intimidation, which goes against the very Treaties we have signed guaranteeing free trade and movement of goods and people between member states.
February 2012 – Fightback! Our friends at Smoking Hot continue with their great work. Why not print these leaflets and give them to fellow shoppers / leave them on the ferry etc?. nothing-2-declare.blogspot.com
HELP! – if you have any comments or tips that will help advance the cause of channel shopping, please contact us
Statutory Instrument 2002 No. 2692. www.legislation.gov.uk
The Excise Goods, Beer and Tobacco Products (Amendment) Regulations 2002.
Write your own MP and let them know how you feel. www.writetothem.com
Find your MP. www.parliament.uk
United Kingdom Members of the European Parliament, by Party and in alphabetical order. If you want to know who your local MEP's are please go to your local library where they will be listed.
Find your local MEP; www.europarl.org.uk
More – we have listed all the links you may find of use here
day-tripper.net does not accept liability for any of the comments made here, but pass them on in good faith in the interests of European Shoppers from the United Kingdom.
Remember, the guidelines are vague and unclear (no legal validity) so its up to the individual C and E Officer to make a decision.
1 – If stopped on the way out, we suggest you should;
A) Ask for the name or other identity of the Customs Officer speaking to you.
B) Ask the reason why he or she has stopped you.
Inform them that you are not satisfied with their reason for stopping you – and that you will be taking legal advice – as they have just broken the law by stopping you at random (refer to the Hoverspeed case). Express your outrage that you have been stopped LEAVING the United Kingdom.
If they say they stopped you for security reasons, let them finish questioning you and then ask why they haven't ask asked you any questions relating to security or searched your car? (They usually ask where you are going, if shopping, how much money you have with you etc.)
1 – Get a receipt for each traveller, make sure the date is correct.
2 – If a group, bag up and label your goods clearly. Make sure the driver has the smallest amount of goods.
3 – If travelling by foot hide all parking tickets (they can and will take your car even if you travelled as a foot passenger, if they discover you came by car. Don't admit to having a car).
1 – Show signs that you are smoking – have a lighter, cigarettes opened, ashtray full (same brand as purchases) etc.
2 – If you have pouch tobacco have some paper and an open pack handy.
3 – Leave all goods in full view. Remember, even if everything is in view, if the amount you say you bought doesn't tally exactly with the amount counted, you will be accused of "concealment".
4 – Make sure your stories / accounts of the day / reasons for going, are the same (Work it out on the boat, train. They will interview you separately and use any supposed inconsistencies against you in Court).
Things they will ask you. We suggest some replies which can be taken as sensible advice.
Remember they get a lot of information from your car number plate and information passed on by the cross channel companies. Official questions
Do not implicate yourself – they are expert at catching people out. Just say what is necessary and avoid embellishing what you say. If you feel the question is too personal or infringes your rights as a European traveller – say so, politely but firmly.
1. Where have you been?
None of their business really but this is Britain and even its citizens are not welcome. Keep it very brief.
2. What have you purchased?
Mention tobacco last.
3. Is this your vehicle?
Better to say its company, hired or someone else's as they find it easier to confiscate private vehicles. They like easy targets.
4. How long have you had it?
Picked it up yesterday perhaps.
5. Have you any documents for it?
No. Don't admit to having your own car as they may seize that instead.
6. What do you do for a living?
You work. If you say you are unemployed or on benefit they will report you and you will lose your benefit.
7. When did you last travel?
I went up to Glasgow last week. They will then have to ask you when did you last travel abroad. Keep vague. Unless they have stopped you before they may not know.
Ask them to prove you have been across x times this month. They suggest they know you have made more journeys, as a way of intimidating you. If they seize, they will be able to get this information from the cross channel companies. If you have made a lot of journeys – be careful.
8. Have customs spoken to you before?
If they have say yes.
9. Have you had goods seized?
Don't answer if you have, if pushed say a friend you were once with did.
10. Who are the goods for? Tell the C and E Officer (known as a goonie to regulars) to follow you around as you smoke each cigarette.
You. Never say you are buying for a friend or family. If you accept money even if you do not make a profit this makes you a nasty criminal smuggler in the eyes of British Revenue and Customs.
11. Are you the only person who drives this car?
Always answer no to this one they cannot prove you were the driver on each occasion. They do monitor your movements and may know you have been across before.
12. Shopping for your son/daughter/mother/father then? (leading question they usually ask)
NO. If you answer yes this means you are a smuggler as you have accepted money for the goods you have purchased, even if you make no profit. Actual case
13. How much do you earn?
Quote your gross (before tax) earnings and add in anything else – rent, part time earnings etc. – the bigger the better.
14. What is your disposable income?
Depends – bonuses, overtime etc. Ridiculously, it is now advisable to carry your pay slips, proof of savings accounts, and proof of other income, to prove you are not a smuggler. THIS DOES NOT APPLY TO OTHER EUROPEAN CITIZENS.
15. How many packets do you use a week?
Always work out your consumption beforehand. Always say you are a heavy smoker Sometimes dishonesty does pay. Case study.
16. How many roll ups do you get to a packet?
A silly question – even the Governments own statistics quote wildly differing amounts (depends on the point they are trying to make). The answer is 40 – 60 per 50g pouch. C and E suggest 85.
17. Why have you spent so much on Tobacco?
Bonus, saved it up (because its cheaper abroad), a gift from Mum/ Dad etc.
18. Like a cigarette?
Always say yes and light up. A refusal will be taken as evidence of wrongdoing (even though you cannot smoke in the sheds).
19. Which are your goods?
If you are with other people always make sure your amount of tobacco is under the guidelines. Bag them up and label them clearly before coming home.
20. Do you have receipts for the tobacco purchases?
It is better to have receipts showing all E.U. duties paid. We think it is a ridiculous question – does this apply to petrol, diesel, coffee soap powder?
21. I am giving you a Notice 1 (This tells you about allowances, it is also noted by them and should you be stopped again they will seize).
If you are under the limits refuse it – they will try and give you one regardless.
If you feel they have wrongly "proved" your guilt, do not accept it and ask to make a complaint.
22. Have you brought any back for someone at work?
Always say no. You must NOT sell them (this is clearly illegal). If you accept the cost price you are still a smuggler in their eyes, even if its for your wife!
23. Are any of these tobacco products gifts?
You can give cigarettes as gifts on a consequential nature i.e. Birthdays for example. However if the amounts are large they will doubt you.
24. I do not believe these goods are for your own personal use.
Suggest he/she follows you around as you smoke each cigarette (how else can they prove they are not?)
Ask if they are suggesting you are a liar.
Ask them to prove it is not for personal use (normal British legal practice – innocent until proven guilty – not guilty by assumption).
They can even ask for bank statements and proof of savings, but that's in rare cases.
Whether or not you are clobbered depends on A) Your history, B) Your consumption, C) Shelf life of goods (usually 6 months but see letter from Imperial Tobacco) and so on (we hear from the TABAC shops that provided the tobacco is properly sealed it will last considerably longer than 6 months – don't accept the C and E Officers viewpoint).
A customs officer is not allowed just to make any decision s/he likes as to whether goods are for your own use or not. S/he MUST take into account the following:
(2) In determining whether or not the excise goods a person has in his possession or control were imported for a commercial purpose or, as the case may be, are held or used for such purpose regard shall be taken of:
(a) his reasons for having possession or control of those goods;
(b) whether or not he is a revenue trader;
(c) his conduct in relation to those goods and, for the purposes of this sub-paragraph, conduct includes his intentions at any time in relation to those goods;
(d) the location of those goods;
(e) the mode of transport used to convey those goods;
(f) any document or other information whatsoever relating to those goods;
(g) the nature of those goods including the nature and condition of any package or container;
(h) the quantity of those goods;
(i) whether he has personally financed the purchase of those goods; and
(j) any other circumstance which appears to be relevant.
The Excise Duties (Personal Reliefs) Order 1992. GOOD NEWS – now to be abolished. New rules will however be put in place. We suspect however that they will be seeking to re-interpret the rules in their favour and not with regard to recent Court rulings – will be watching closely. www.hmso.gov.uk
Tip from a site visitor.
Your readers should also be aware that if their car falls into the hands of the authority's for any period it may come back with a tracking device fitted. After my car was stolen it was kept for a couple of days by the Police for 'forensic tests' and came back with a tracking device fitted. An American Human rights lawyer I spoke to last year now advises his clients not only to switch of their mobile phones before visiting him but also to take the batteries out.
My interest in this is that I see criminals walking the streets with apparent impunity and honest people persecuted by the authority's because they are easy targets.
Honest is a dead concept when you deal with the British State and it has been replaced with 'denial of liability'.
We often hear of suggestions that Customs use tracking devices – if you have any knowledge of this please let us know
– Charles Taylor. www.charlestaylor.co.uk
– East Coast Salvage. On the A12 near Colchester. www.eastcoastsalvage.co.uk
Following the recent high Court judgement (August 2002). NOTE – this advice is now OLD although useful – new advice coming soon)
HOVERSPEED v HM CUSTOMS and EXCISE
1 What amount of goods can I bring back with me?
You can bring in an unlimited amount of cigarettes or alcohol bought in other. Member States of the European Community (including France and Belgium) providing the goods are for your own personal use and are not being brought in for "commercial purposes".
2 What are "commercial purposes"?
If you are selling the goods. Also it appears that goods bought on behalf of others are in general to be treated as not for personal use and therefore "commercial" in a special sense if any money or moneys worth is to be given in return for the goods. Goods purchased as a present should not be treated as being held for a "commercial purpose".
3 On what basis can Customs stop me?
Customs have to have reasonable grounds (based on specific information or on your specific behaviour) to suspect that you are holding goods "for commercial purposes" before they can lawfully stop and search you.
4 On what basis can Customs seize my goods?
Customs are entitled to seize your goods if they establish that they are held "for commercial purposes". They must act reasonably and give you a fair chance to explain yourself.
5 What should I do if I am stopped by Customs?
Ask why they have stopped you, and why they suspect you of having committed an offence. You should answer questions truthfully and openly. The burden of proof is on Customs to show that you are bringing the goods in for commercial purposes rather than for your own personal use. If you have any difficulty with HM Revenue and Customs you should report your concerns to Hoverspeed's 'Customs Advisory Desk', located in the passenger arrivals hall opposite the baggage carousels.
Nick Cleg was the Lib Dem Member of the European Parliament for the East Midlands a few years ago. The advice below is from his web site, which we reproduce here as it is the most concise and practical we have found. Together with Graham Watson and Dianna Wallis (Midlands) have been the most active in defending cross border shoppers. We welcome their support. To those MP.'s and MEP's who cannot be bothered to even respond to their constituents letters – shame on you!
HM Revenue and Customs Vehicle Seizure – Advice from Nick Clegg MEP (Liberal Democrat Member for East Midlands) who is sadly retiring from the E.U. Parliament.
Information Note on Seizure of Vehicles by Customs from Tourists exceeding E.U. ‘Personal Use’ Guidelines on Tobacco and/or Alcohol.
If your vehicle has been seized by customs officials on re-entering the United Kingdom because you have exceeded the personal use guidelines on the amount of tobacco and/or alcohol you may bring back, there are two possibilities that may assist you in eventually getting redress against Customs.
There can be no guarantee of success, and neither of these courses of action offers a quick fix, as each individual case varies. Please be aware that this note is not in anyway a substitute for proper legal advice.
First, you can use the initial internal appeal procedure. You will need to write objecting to the seizure within 30 days and setting out the grounds of your objection. If you are not the vehicle owner, you should advise the owner (including any finance company when ownership has not passed to you under the finance agreement). On the assumption that this does not result in a decision restoring the vehicle, you can then ask for the case to be reviewed. Again, this must be done by letter (details on back of Seizure Notice).
The cases seen so far seem to indicate that these reviews all reach the same conclusion i.e. for Customs to keep the vehicle, as Customs' powers in this respect seem to be entirely discretionary.
The next step is therefore to appeal to the VAT and Duties Tribunal, within 28 days. We now know that the Manchester, London and Southampton Tribunals (possibly Edinburgh too) are selecting a number of lead / test cases, which have been won by shoppers, and are now subject to appeal by HM Revenue and Customs.
This will allow the Tribunal to give an exhaustive decision on all the human rights issues raised by the cases. In the mean time, all other appellants are being offered the chance to have their cases ‘stood over’ pending the outcome of these test cases.
There is a reasonable chance of a finding against HM Customs and Excise, which may in turn result in them appealing to the High Court.
There would appear to be nothing to be lost from notifying an appeal and agreeing to have it ‘stood over’ pending the outcome of these cases. Such action would at least preserve your position. However every case is different and you should take independent advice.
Second, the European Commission is indicating the possibility of taking the United Kingdom government to Court for infringement of the E.U. Treaty on the Single Market. A decision will be made on this at the end of September or beginning of October.
In order to persuade the Commission to take action, we are sending details of as many cases as possible. We can report your case for you, or you may wish to write direct to the Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein at European Commission, 200 rue de la Loi / Wetstraat 200, B-1049 Brussels, Belgium.
If infringement proceedings are taken, and they are successful, this might finally enable those losing vehicles to eventually claim compensation against the British government. However, it will take some time for all these processes to be exhausted, but the more pressure put on the Commission to take action now, the greater the chances of success.
Not all are bad, but as there is no law on minimum quantities, they have the freedom to decide themselves / individually what to do.
A sad state of affairs so be careful.
It is simply the luck of draw on whether you will get through with 5,000 cigarettes or have your car confiscated because you have 3,400 (200 over the limit).
Some say this is British Justice.
As you are dealing with HM Revenue and Customs, any transgression by you is regarded as a civil matter. They only therefore have to prove a balance of probability, not beyond doubt (as in a criminal Court).
This effectively gives them the freedom to make anything up.
The entrance requirements for Customs Officers has been lowered dramatically in recent years.
We believe it's now down to 1 O-level.
Remember they are doing the job of the Government and whilst some may enjoy being intimidating and intruding into your private life in a way most would find alarming in a modern democracy, not all Officers enjoy this dangerously irresponsible aspect of their job.
Please feel sorry the senior professionals still working for them.
There is no limit to the time they can hold you.
They will intimidate you by suggesting you can wait for an interview or walk.
You have no rights.
Forget about the law or your Human Rights. Customs and Excise have special "revenue protecting" powers.
They can and do split you up and interview you if they wish. The presence of your children makes no difference. Case study
This is to collect evidence which will be used against you should you appeal. Don't be misled by the friendly chat – you are dealing with hardened professionals who will use you ruthlessly.
They will create the impression the interview is an opportunity for you to argue your case – when they do this they have in fact already decided to confiscate and are trying to get you to agree. Any inconsistency will be used against you in Court.
Under no circumstances agree to an interview – you will be implicating yourself. Say "I am unrepresented and need legal advice. I will answer any questions in Court under proper circumstances." Remember they have already decided to seize your car.
Even if they let you through, amazingly they can then raid your house and search it intimately without a search warrant if you let them in. If you refuse they will need a search warrant or a writ (from a Senior C and E Officer). They will usually seize your car and the goods whatever you say and even if you have a reasonable (i.e. you have smoked some of the purchases) excuse.
Forget any assumptions about living in a country where you have rights. Apparently they can visit you for 7 years after issuing you with a Notice 1 (this was told to one shopper and relayed to us).
Insist on having your solicitor present.
day-tripper.net does not accept liability for any of the comments made here, but pass them on in good faith in the interests of European Shoppers from the United Kingdom.
Like the web master, many of you enjoy our message boards. With tens of thousands of messages left since we began it in 2001, we now enjoy over 20 – 50 messages a day. Apart from the humour, the tips given, whilst not always accurate or true, none the less helps us cope with the alarming behaviour of British Revenue and Customs. We have grouped the tips given over the last few months for your benefit.
Forget any assumption you have rights. As far as C and E are concerned you do not.
As long as you are not trading (although its OK to buy £1,000's of pounds worth of goods for your hotel, catering company etc.) you have nothing to fear – remember C and E are deliberately trying to intimidate you. You have broken no law so stand firm.
Your car number plate is monitored by scanning CCTV's automatically. Our fellow E.U. citizens do not suffer this indignity – why should we?
Do not assume because you are being treated like a criminal, you can expect the same rights British Criminal Law bestows – you can't. Interviews for example are carried out without any recording being made, and you may not have a copy of the statement written out by the Customs Officer (makes it easier for them to amend afterwards). However these notes will be used as evidence in Court.
Only answer for yourself – you do not have to answer for your other passengers. You may implicate yourself if you do. Remember they will interview you separately in order to find inconsistencies in your answers – grounds for seizure.
If told you are over the limit say you can't fit the allowances for beer and wine in a standard car so you assumed the same applied to tobacco.
Ask why heavier smokers cannot bring back more than the guidelines.
Mention that as you have not had a Notice 1, you don't know what the limits are – after all on the P and O Ferries and Eurotunnel promotional literature they clearly state "you can bring back as much as you like as long as it is for personal use".
Don't assume the fact you have a young child with counts for something – you will still be left without food or drink and have to find your own way home.
Expect to be humiliated – as part of the campaign you will be intimidated and frightened into "walking" (they actually use this term). Some people seem to feel that losing their car is less of a problem than having a criminal record. C and E imply this vigorously.
Retired? On State benefits? Unemployed? British C and E assume you cannot afford to travel so therefore must be a smuggler. The obvious fact that the savings are so large, and that it makes sense to travel to buy your tobacco abroad, pass our Government and C and E by. Case Study
Freedom to travel? Forget it. British citizens are now even required to bring proof of earnings and savings if shopping abroad.
Disabled? You will left to find your own way home. No help will be given, even if you use crutches. If you use a motorbility vehicle the chances are you will get it back, but they will write to Motorbility telling them you have broken the law and should not be entitled to another.
Children? Expect them to be grilled on how often Mummy and Daddy go abroad. Age is no barrier – we know of one family whose 8 year old was quizzed. We know from other visitors that young children are not spared the aggressive questioning and intimidation adults are subject to. Case Study
EU National working in the United Kingdom ? Because you visit your family at home regularly, if you are stopped with any amount of tobacco, they will confiscate your goods and car on the grounds that you are a "frequent traveller".
Work abroad? You will be targeted. Should you be stopped with any amount of tobacco, they will confiscate your goods and car on the grounds that you are a "frequent traveller".
From an ethnic community? – don't expect any respect – cultural traditions such as giving out tobacco as gifts at engagement parties, weddings etc. will be laughed at. Case Study
Go by foot, its cheaper.
Professional smugglers use this route – but its easier to get money from law abiding citizens.
Mug someone – you still keep your car.
The actions of C and E come under Civil law – traditionally this means lower penalties. The new severe penalties for buying tobacco abroad mean that criminals come off better – topsy turvy world hey?
Resort to big time smuggling (container loads – just 7 a day need for the United Kingdom.
Why? The chances of getting caught and suffering a penalty are much smaller.
If you go by foot, simply park in Dover, stay on the ferry (the prices are not that much more).
There is a free coach to Calais town centre. Don't admit you have a car if stopped. They can still seize it. Hide parking tickets.
Make sure the driver only has the limit suggested as a guideline.
Send the other passengers over on foot.
Have your consumption worked out. Although C and E Officers don't give a monkeys if you are from Scotland, simple common sense dictates you cannot pop across as often as someone from Kent.
You should be allowed more, so argue your case.
One of the major reasons the cross channel companies are suffering is because travellers and shoppers find it cheaper and less risky flying. It is time they woke up to this.
Book as late as possible, misspell your name and pay cash (they pass passenger lists to the ferry companies, who pass it to customs).
Shopping on board
When shopping on board say you are with a coach and have no individual ticket.
Give a slightly different car registration number or misspell your name.
People travelling by foot are heavily targetted.
Sadly all cross channel operators assist Customs prosecuting shoppers. If your case comes to Court or Tribunal, they will provided detailed information about your travel history.
Eurotunnel – It is clear that the C and E operation at Eurotunnel is much stricter. We strongly suspect Eurotunnel actively co-operate with Customs.
P and O Ferries – They ask more questions than anyone else about travellers. Even passengers must be detailed when booking. None the less they did at least have notices explaining shoppers rights on board.
Seafrance – rumour has it they do not provide C and E with passenger lists.
Page with information on the sort of notices you may get when dealing with HM Revenue and Customs
From 1th July 2007, excise duty is now due on ALL excise goods (including tobacco and alcohol products) received via post from abroad, including occassional gifts and goods ordered online. You do not have to pay the import VAT though.
Information regarding duties due when posting tobacco from abroad. www.hmrc.gov.uk
Sending personal goods back from abroad. customs.hmrc.gov.uk
A Midlands Church organises a shopping trip to Belgium and France twice a year. One woman had 2,500 cigarettes confiscated because she admitted that 400 were for her daughter and yes she would be given the money for them. She was interviewed with her 14 year old son and found the experience upsetting and terrifying. IN THE EYES OF BRITISH C and E SHE IS A LOW LIFE MAFIA TYPE SMUGGLER????
On the same trip a retired army major with a good pension had it suggested to him "that as you are on state benefits" he and his son could not afford 5,000 cigarettes. They kept their cigarettes but received a Notice 1. Whilst determined to travel again, he is worried about his next (biannual) journey.
A Turkish couple getting engaged travelled to Belgium to buy tobacco for their party. Turkish engagement parties are big events and gifts are handed out to all visitors to celebrate the occasion. They had 5,000 cigarettes and 10 kilograms of pouch tobacco seized as well as the car. It was the first journey abroad to buy tobacco for the driver, who works for a prestigious Bank. Terrified by their ordeal they managed to ring the web master during the interrogation from the toilet. The woman, hysterical at the thought of losing her car (she had saved hard for it and was still paying for it) as well as the effect the seizure would have on her job, coupled with the fear of no longer being able to have the engagement party, was beside herself. No doubt C and E were very happy to see them in this state. By implying suggestively that they would lose everything they had reduced a hard working couple to nervous wrecks (C and E will suggest anything from – its a cold night, no time to be finding your way home without a car is it?, to, – You know you'll still have to pay for the car even when we have seized it?).
Web master comment; Such abuses of power demand not just the restoration of all seized goods, but compensation to those British Citizens who have been put through this ordeal. Additionally, those responsible for the Civil Liberty outrages should be punished (that includes those MP.'s who have so scandalously promoted this policy).
Mrs. X from Norfolk likes to travel to France and Belgium 3 times a year. Making a "girls day out" and travelling with her 81 year old mother, daughter and 3 year old grand daughter, she was horrified in February to be grilled and "treated like a criminal" because she had 1,000 cigarettes and 25 pouches of tobacco. Given a Notice 1 she kept her goods. Never having had a parking ticket she found the experience upsetting. In July she travelled again with her family. This time they kept strictly to the limits.
They were grilled and kept for 2 1/2 hours with no offers of tea for her Mother or a drink for the 3 year old. It was suggested that it was a nasty night to be finding her way home with to Norfolk with a 3 year old and no car. She was offered the chance to walk, and had it aggressively implied she had travelled frequently (nonsense she told me). Eventually she was allowed home with her goods. Distraught she asked if she would be able to travel to France again.
Being an honest woman she replied when asked how many she smoked, "15 a day". She told me they then suggested she was a smuggler because she has 800 cigarettes. Honesty does not pay with British C and E.