The commission is threatening to take the Government before the European Court of Justice if it continues to allow HM Customs and Excise to clamp down on travellers legitimately bringing in cheap alcohol and tobacco for their own use.
Customs has made it clear that it expects fleet operators to provide clear guidelines on what drivers can bring across the Channel. Failure to do so could end up with the vehicle impounded, even if the driver does not own the car.
About 20,000 cars have been impounded in the past two years. Frits Bolkestein, the European Taxation Commissioner, has called on the Government to clarify how individuals can satisfy customs that what they are carrying is for private consumption.
He added that while he supports the fight against excise fraud, cross border shopping throughout the EU is a fundamental legal right, and innocent shoppers should not get caught in the fight.
Quantities considered acceptable for personal use are roughly 800 cigarettes, 200 cigars, 10 litres of spirits, 90 litres of wine and 110 litres of beer. The Treasury estimates that excise fraud – bringing goods over from the continent to sell on without paying duty – costs £4 billion in lost revenue annually.