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Old 17-08-15, 15:51   #1
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European Union Greedy Duty Free Shops at Airports CHARGE Tax

Just Plane Greedy! From Gatwick to Edinburgh, our Reporters Find Chaos and Fury as Airport Shops STILL Refuse to Pass on VAT Discounts
  • Stores in UK airports continue to ask travellers for their boarding passes
  • Failing to cut prices despite Treasury ministers pleading for rip-off to end
  • Airport shops ask to see boarding passes only to avoid paying 20% VAT
  • Until recently it was believed they had to be shown for security reasons
Daily Mail UK, 17 August 2015

The airport duty free row intensified last night after retailers defied a Government demand to pass on VAT discounts to passengers.
Stores in airports across Britain continued to ask travellers for their boarding passes – and failed to cut prices, despite Treasury ministers pleading for an end to the rip-off.
Passengers have been left furious by the revelation that airport shops ask to see boarding passes only so shops can avoid paying 20 per cent VAT on sales.


Dixons’ staff at Heathrow were left scratching their heads when they were asked why passengers needed to show boarding cards.
If travellers refused to show the document, one manager said he could instead put a ‘code’ into the till – leading to even more confusion.

‘I’m not sure [what the code means], I just got trained on it, I’m trying to find out further,’ said the senior staff member.

Policy: Daily Mail reporter EMINE SINMAZ found customers had to show a boarding pass at World Duty Free

Meanwhile passengers at Britain’s biggest airport said they felt they were being ‘ripped-off’ and ‘exploited’ by retailers.
They said shop staff seemed confused about the rules, giving reasons such as ‘it’s for security purposes’ and ‘it’s a legal requirement’.

Staff in Boots and WH Smith – where prices are no different to the high street – demanded boarding cards from air passengers, but conceded that they could still make purchases without them.

However, staff at luxury fashion brand Burberry said boarding cards had to be shown to benefit from VAT-free prices.

Tester: Perfume and cosmetics retailer Jo Malone also insisted that customers showed their boarding cards

A checked cashmere scarf that costs £335 on the high street is priced at £279 at the airport.

After confirming with head office, staff told customers that anyone refusing to show the travel document would be charged the price inclusive of VAT.

A shop assistant said: ‘The original price is £335, so if you don’t give me your boarding pass then we would charge you £335 instead of £279.’

Perfume and cosmetics retailer Jo Malone and World Duty Free also insisted that customers showed their boarding cards.
Until now, it was widely believed they had to be shown for security reasons.
In fact, the only purpose is to allow stores to escape paying the tax on any products they sell to people travelling outside the EU.

Many airline passengers are rebelling and refusing to show their passes now they know they are no longer legally obliged to.

On Tuesday, David Gauke, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, intervened and demanded that airport stores pass on the VAT relief to travellers by cutting prices.
But when the Mail visited five airports around the country yesterday, there was no evidence of any discounts.

Shops continued to ask for boarding passes and refused to cut prices for those flying to destinations outside of the European Union.


Retail staff were trying to quickly adapt to the outrage which has accompanied the VAT scandal.
Three out of five retailers – Boots, Dixons and WH Smith – demanded to see a boarding pass but relented when the customer refused and allowed the goods to be purchased.

However, in World Duty Free, the cashier said she was unable to sell a bottle of Gordon’s gin unless the customer showed a boarding pass.

Boots: Reporter JAYA NARAIN was told to show a boarding pass - but the cashier relented when he refused

She added: ‘I know it is in the news but that is what we do here.’
On request, she fetched the manager who said: ‘We always ask for a boarding pass as we are required to do so by the HMRC and we stick to those guidelines.’

At Dixons, the boarding pass was requested but goods were purchased despite a refusal. One member of staff said the company was adapting to the VAT situation with a dual approach.
He said: ‘We’ve been told that we should always ask the traveller for a boarding card and put the flights details into our system but, if for any reason they don’t want to hand over the boarding pass, then we have a code to put in and we will sell them the goods.

Products: In World Duty Free, the cashier said she was unable to sell a bottle of Gordon’s gin unless the customer showed a boarding pass

‘I think the management wants a gauge of how many customers are wanting to have the VAT refunded. They are obviously trying to see what public opinion is.’

One traveller, Aimee, 32, said: ‘Airports and shops make enough money out of us, so it’s about time they passed the VAT on to us.
'It’s wrong they keep it for themselves. People save all year to afford a holiday so this saving needs to be passed on – especially if it’s our legal right.’
Yesterday, stores said they had been reminding their staff of the rules – that customers are under no legal obligation to hand over travel documents – following the backlash.
Late last night, Boots said it would no longer ask passengers for their boarding passes.


Exasperated staff in duty free stores were confronted by hostile customers at Birmingham.

A saleswoman at World Duty Free said: ‘There have been awkward exchanges to say the least. You can understand people’s strong feelings, but the reduction in price is being passed on to them.’

Heating engineer James Carro, 50, from Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, said: ‘We did have to show our boarding passes.
'But I think what they are doing is wrong. If I tried getting out of VAT in my business, I would get locked up.’

His travelling companion Lorraine Collins, 46, said: ‘People think it’s a security thing, so they just hand over their boarding pass.’

Two Armed Forces servicemen out of uniform were unaware of the VAT row.
But when told, one of them said: ‘Ripping off the VAT when it’s meant to reduce prices for travellers? That’s just rude.’
Boots said: ‘To help remove any confusion at this time, we have taken the decision to no longer ask customers to show us their boarding passes while we undertake a longer-term review.’

W H Smith said it would be too difficult to introduce a ‘dual-pricing’ policy to pass the VAT savings on to non-EU travellers. Accessorize and Dixons did not respond to questions about their prices.

Meanwhile, the Mail discovered a confusing picture for travellers at airports across the country. The majority of retailers were still asking to see travel documents but customers were allowed to buy goods if they refused.

The only exception was World Duty Free, which has branches at dozens of airports. Staff from the Italian-owned company demanded to see a boarding pass for all purchases and would not allow a sale without one.

A spokesman said this was a ‘legal requirement specified by HMRC to ask all passengers to show their boarding passes when buying in our airport stores’.
But HMRC said a boarding pass was required only when buying cigarettes and alcohol, which are duty free if taken outside the EU, and there was ‘no legal requirement for the individual to show a boarding pass if they are not buying excisable goods’.


It was ‘physically impossible’ to sell a bottle of sun cream without having a passenger’s boarding pass, according to the Boots saleswoman.

She said a destination must be entered into the till. After several minutes of discussion she came up with a solution – simply make up a destination to bypass the system.
It had been a trying day already, she said, and many passengers had been ‘difficult’ in refusing to hand over their boarding passes.

At World Duty Free, the sales assistant refused to sell either Gordon’s gin or a Toblerone bar without a boarding pass.

At Accessorize, a pass was not requested. Instead, they simply entered details saying the passenger was flying inside the European Union, despite the real destination being outside the EU.

Dixons and WH Smith asked for a boarding pass, but when told no they put the sale through anyway.
Meanwhile, dozens of angry passengers were refusing to comply.
At Heathrow yesterday, Douglas Lawrie, who was travelling to Ho Chi Min City with his seven-year-old daughter Tamzin, had an argument with the cashier at World Duty Free when they refused to serve him without his boarding pass.


Staff at Gatwick branded the situation a ‘nightmare’ yesterday, as frustrated passengers struggled to understand the rules.
Confusion reigned as different retailers gave out different information.
Some had stopped asking for boarding passes, while others refused to serve shoppers unless they presented their flight details.

Question: Reporter EMILY DAVIES bought a foreign plug adapter without having to show her boarding pass

In some instances, passengers were forced to retrieve boarding passes from relatives in the waiting area before they could buy anything.

At Dixons Travel, staff seemed confused about the rules.
One cashier said: ‘It used to be obligatory to scan a boarding pass to make a purchase but actually from today our policy has changed so you can choose whether you want to show it or not.’

Staff at the London News Company, which is owned by WH Smith, did not ask to see a boarding pass, but Hugo Boss sales staff said it was a requirement to show it.
The 52-year-old self-employed businessman from Lowestoft, Suffolk, said: ‘I feel like we’re getting ripped off. A big corporate body exploiting the VAT situation and people’s lack of knowledge.’

At Birmingham, British estate agent Mel Diaz, 49, who lives in Hong Kong, said: ‘I read about it in the Daily Mail online. I intend to refuse to show my boarding pass if I am asked.’

Labour MP Chris Bryant and Dragons’ Den star Duncan Bannatyne were among those refusing to hand over boarding passes yesterday.

Shadow transport minister Gordon Marsden said yesterday it was ‘simply unacceptable’ that some retailers were taking advantage of this relief and not passing the saving on to travellers.

Saga Holidays spokesman Paul Green said: ‘Treasury ministers have confirmed what many holidaymakers believed for some time – that you need to be wary when shopping at Britain’s airports.

‘The VAT exemption is supposed to benefit hard-pressed holidaymakers, but the only ones who appear to bagging a bargain are rapacious retailers – swiping a 20 per cent VAT refund without passing it on to customers.

'Saying that it is just too difficult not to charge the VAT-included price is nonsense – their systems are clever enough to reclaim the VAT so treating customers fairly should be simple.’
He added: ‘This is tantamount to racketeering.’

WH Smith said it was a ‘practical impossibility’ to implement a ‘dual pricing policy’ at airports, but added: ‘Any relief obtained is reflected in our single price and extensive promotional offers provided to all of our customers’.

Dixons said: ‘At Dixons Travel we do ask customers to show their boarding pass when making a purchase, but this is only on request and is not mandatory. We have re-issued existing guidance to all our colleagues confirming this as our clear process.’

An HMRC spokesman said: ‘There is nothing in VAT law to require the production of a boarding pass to purchase goods in airport shops.’
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