Memorandum submitted by the Trading Standards
The Committee is correct in its contention that
an offence could be alleged (under the Trade Descriptions Act
1968), where fuel, supplied from a "branded" site, has
been sourced otherwise than from the brand supplier or without
the brand supplier's authority. This would hold good whether or
not the petrol retailer was legitimately entitled to display the
signage associated with the brand in question.
It should be noted, however, that where the
fuel in question was not materially different from that provided
by the branded supplier, any alleged offence would be of a technical
An offence under the Trade Descriptions Act
could also be alleged where smuggled, chemically modified or adulterated
fuel is offered or supplied to consumers, described, expressly
or impliedly, as legitimate product.
The offence sections under the Trade Descriptions
Act are, however, subject to the requirement that any alleged
misdescription must be false to a material degree.
The prosecution must also prove its case to
the criminal standard; beyond all reasonable doubt and, in addition,
the defendant may avail of the defence of due diligence contained
in the Act.
Upon receipt of an allegation that smuggled,
chemically modified or adulterated fuel is being supplied to consumers,
Trading Standards Officers investigate the circumstances in which
the fuel is supplied or offered, with a view to obtaining evidence
of any alleged offences.
Commonly, a sample of the fuel would be taken
and sent for analysis. If the analysis revealed that the fuel
was not as described, appropriate enforcement action would be
taken against the offending party or parties. The nature of the
action would depend on the individual circumstances of the case.
The action taken in relation to the six cases
referred to in the Department's January 1999 memorandum is summarised
in Annex A.