War declared on wine fraud

Drinks industry urged to report suspicions to confidential Customs hotline

Wine fraud is on the increase,

say senior trade figures

who have urged the industry to pull together to stamp it out.

Wine & Spirit Trade Association chief executive Jeremy Beadles said levels of trade complaints about under-priced and suspicious wine have gone up.

"We have identified increasing levels of fraud around branded wine,"

he said. "Both brand owners and cash and carries are identifying products at prices they shouldn't be at on the shelves

and we've taken the details to


Beadles said there could be a variety of reasons for this.

" Whether it's stolen product, duty deferment fraud, or counterfeit, we're asking

Customs to look into it," he said.

The various types of fraud "create price compression at the bottom end of the market", Beadles added.

Federation of Wholesale Distributors director general John Murphy said: "We have seen transmission of fraud into the wine market . Over the years there's been a lot of it in spirits, then it moved into beer and then wine."

Murphy urged the drinks industry to get in touch with

Customs with any relevant information.

"All information is pertinent

- anything that anybody's got to say . Hotline information can be given in confidence.

"It's in the interests of the whole legitimate trade to try to nail this down," he said.

Brand Phoenix director Steve Barton said the rise of alcohol fraud "shows how the wine market is changing".

He added: " Brands are becoming such a key component of the worldwide wine trade and there are a some very recognisable labels with strong consumer appeal that people now want to counterfeit."

Barton said there were various measures brand owners c ould take to protect their products, such as monitoring global trademark registers to look for similar names being lodged.

Laurent-Perrier managing director David Hesketh said the biggest problem facing Champagne was theft of stock in transit.

Customs confidential hotline: 0800 595000.