The British Retail Consortium and high profile retailers including Clarks, Marks & Spencer, Tesco and John Lewis, are briefing the UK government today on their call for the EU to investigate the impact of anti-dumping duties on the poor.
The BRC estimates that UK consumers are being forced to pay £16 million a year extra for goods including leather shoes because of anti-dumping duties. Anti-dumping duties are imposed where the EU believes overseas manufacturers are selling their products into the UK at prices lower than they would charge in their home market. They impose tariffs to prevent "unfair" competition.
The BRC estimates that £6m of tariffs are added to the cost of importing leather footwear each year. Duties of 16.5% and 10% were imposed on Chinese and Vietnamese leather footwear imports in October 2006. This is due to be reviewed in October this year, which could see duties extended for another five years.
The BRC said that these additional duties hit the poorest members of society the hardest, at a time when their incomes are already being squeezed by rising costs.
BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: "EU anti-dumping duties penalise the many for the sake of the few. With customers, especially those on low incomes, under severe financial pressure there can be no justification for the EU piling on extra taxes which push up shop prices and drive up overall inflation."
Robertson added: "With [light] bulb and shoe duties up for review this autumn and new ones on candles and screws threatened, the BRC is working with the UK government and retail organisations throughout Europe to persuade the Commission to respond to the squeeze on household incomes by dropping future plans for duties."
"Brussels must show it puts the needs of its citizens above the interests of a minority of businesses looking for an unfair competitive advantage," he added.
MP Gareth Thomas, parliamentary under-secretary of State for Trade and Consumer, said: "It is vital that the Commission actively takes account of all interests, including consumers, traders and retailers when considering anti-dumping measures. Consumers in particular are not well placed to represent their interests to the Commission in anti-dumping cases. The government welcomes the fact the British Retail Consortium has launched this initiative."
Thomas added: "However it is also important to recognise that anti-dumping measures are a legitimate tool to be used when unfair competition is a direct cause of injury to EU industry."