Tourists miss the point of 'duty-free' EC bonanza

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The Independent Online
THE SINGLE European market is proving a serious obstacle to international peace and goodwill. Scuffles are breaking out at ports and airports as passengers, most of them British, fail to grasp the subtleties of a duty-free Europe.

In Brussels, bulky cigarette cartons have been aimed at cashiers. At Faro, Portugal, angry British tourists have 'squared up' to till operators after being ordered to the back of the queue. Tempers were raised as airline travellers were told they could not take cases of beer in their hand luggage back to Britain.

The duty-free industry yesterday warned that confusion over allowances was causing 'widespread aggravation' and threatened to disrupt this year's holiday season. 'Mr and Mrs UK have been misled by the publicity about a duty-free bonanza,' John Douthwaite, secretary-general of the Duty-Free Confederation, said. 'They are arriving at tills with their baskets loaded with spirits and cigarettes and arguing vociferously when they are told they can't have it. They are absolutely determined the trade has got it wrong.'

The confederation says the misunderstanding began with press and television coverage of Britons returning from France last month loaded with wine, beer, spirits and cigarettes. The era of unlimited 'duty-free' shopping was wrongly proclaimed to have begun.

The new 'indicative' allowances are for duty-paid goods for personal consumption. They allow an individual 800 cigarettes, 10 litres of spirits, 90 litres of wine and 110 litres of beer. However, many people have confused the duty-paid allowances with the duty-free allowances: which still remain one litre of spirits, two of wine and 200 cigarettes.