Illicit alcohol

Purchasing and consuming fake alcohol can be harmful, help us keep it out of our community. Find out more about spotting the signs of counterfeit alcohol and how to report it here.

Illicit alcohol is alcohol that is produced or sold illegally. 

Types of illicit alcohol 

Counterfeit alcohol

This is alcohol that is made to look like a genuine brand, but it is actually not. Counterfeit alcohol may contain hazardous substances, such as methanol.

 Methanol is a non-drinking alcohol substance that is used for industrial purposes only. It can be found in products like anti-freeze and paint remover. 

If methanol is consumed it can lead to breathing difficulties, liver damage or even death.

Non-duty paid alcohol

This is alcohol that has been smuggled into the country without paying the proper taxes. Non-duty paid alcohol although not counterfeit it is still illegal to buy or sell. 

How to identify illicit alcohol

Unfamiliar brand name

If you don't recognise the brand name, it's a good chance that the alcohol is illicit.

Low price

Illicit alcohol is often sold at a much lower price than genuine alcohol. This is because it doesn't have to pay the same taxes and doesn't have the same production costs.

Unusual taste or smell

Illicit alcohol may taste or smell different from genuine alcohol.

Low quality labelling and packaging

Illicit alcohol often has low quality labelling and packaging. This may include misspelled words, grammatical errors, or poor printing quality.

No 'UK Duty Paid' stamp

Genuine alcohol in the UK will have a 'UK Duty Paid' stamp. If the alcohol you're buying doesn't have this stamp, it's likely to be illicit.

‘UK Duty Paid’ stamp shown on legitimate alcohol purchased.

Foreign brand names

If the alcohol has a foreign brand name, it's important to check that it is being sold legally in the UK.

No manufacturer details

Genuine alcohol will have the manufacturer's details on the label. If the alcohol you're buying doesn't have this information, it's likely to be illicit.

Where to buy alcohol safely

Only buy alcohol from reputable traders, such as licensed supermarkets and off-licenses.

Avoid buying alcohol from residential properties, vehicles, or markets. This alcohol is more likely to be illicit.

Selling illicit alcohol

The maximum sentence for selling illicit alcohol is ten years in prison. If you are convicted, the courts have the power to seize your assets, including jewellery and the family home.

Report illicit alcohol 

Any information received about manufacturers, importers, distributors, businesses or individuals dealing in illegal alcohol products will be investigated by Trading Standards. Action will be taken against those found to be breaking the law and this can include prosecutions.

Who to Contact

  • Knowsley Council  
  • Citizens Advice consumer helpline
    • 0808 223 1133. Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. Lines are closed on bank holidays.

Our aim

  • Disrupt and eliminate criminal organisations which deal in illegal and non-duty paid alcohol products.
  • Raise awareness of the harmful effects of alcohol products on young people, peers and the Knowsley community.
  • Investigate and prosecute any person concerned in the sale or supply of alcohol products to any child.
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