Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Trading Standards Service

  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 nature.

  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.

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Prepared 29 July 1999