Time’s up for retailers as track and trace comes into force

Wholesalers of tobacco products are warning their customers could be turned away empty-handed as new track and trace rules come into force this week.

Under the tobacco track and trace system, retailers won’t be able to purchase cigarettes and rolling tobacco from members of the FWD after 19 May, unless they have registered for an Economic Operator Identifier Code (EOID).

FWD wholesalers report that despite the system coming into operation 12 months ago, some retailers have not yet applied for EOID and are still attempting to purchase tobacco without it.

As applications can take up to two days to process, cash and carry customers without an EOID and Facility Identifier Codes for each of their premises will not be immediately able to buy stock on the premises or order them for delivery from 20 May.

The regulations were introduced in May 2019 with a 12-month implementation period, while wholesalers installed the necessary scanning equipment and sold through unmarked stock. HMRC took a constructive approach to enforcement, working with wholesalers and retailers to ensure they were able to implement the system.

HRMC is clear that from 20 May this year, retailers and wholesalers will be subject to criminal proceedings, including penalty notices and stock seizures if they do not comply. Wholesalers who continue to sell product to non-registered customers will have their ability to purchase tobacco removed.

HMRC also says that Covid-19 is not reducing its ability to tackle illicit and criminal activity.

“The track and trace scheme has introduced costs and complexity for our wholesaler members and it’s disappointing the government has been unable to provide a plan for how the scheme will continue after the Brexit transition period finishes at the end of this year,” said FWD Chief Executive, James Bielby.

“However, the systems are now in place and the message from HMRC is unambiguous: while they will work with wholesalers and retailers who are having technical difficulties, they will also start to use the penalties available for deliberate non-compliance, which we welcome.”

“It’s vital that tobacco retailers apply for and receive their EOID before attempting to make purchases from our members’ tobacco rooms.”

The registration portal is here

FWD retailer tobacco track and trace wholesaler