Mobile trader rates 'unfair'

PUBLISHED: 14:02 12 June 2015

(c) Adam Gault

'UNDERMINED' shop owners have launched a plea to plug a legal loophole allowing mobile traders to operate in Weston High Street for barely £10 a year.

While high business rates in the town have often been called into question, traders with a pedlar’s certificate – awarded nationally by police forces, rather than local authorities – are exempt, paying just £12.25 to trade, with the only requirement that they cannot remain ‘static’.

Businesses owners have said the influx of pedlars selling mobile phone accessories at the start of the summer season has ‘badly hit trade’, with sellers ‘able to undercut prices while we pay huge overheads’.

North Somerset Council is powerless to award or remove certificates – a bylaw restricting trading along the seafront has been implemented, although a spokesman said there were no plans for further restrictions to be brought in.

Ibrahim Sulaiman, owner of the Tudor Mall’s mobile phone outlet, said: “We pay huge overheads while these guys operate without any. We have been here for several years and have worked with our customer base.

“If the council can restrict where they trade, it would help if they put that in place, it undermines business when they offer the same things for half the price.”

Jamshaid Muhammad runs the Fone Zone store in Weston High Street, and said the certificate, the legislation for which still stands from 1871, was ‘unfair’.

He said: “It really affects us. People say ‘your prices are high’ but they don’t think about the rent we have to pay, the store we have to upkeep – it hits us.

“It would help if there was some protection in place for the High Street, it’s hard enough to cover your costs without this in place.”

Last year, the Government announced plans to make obtaining a certificate even easier by removing the requirement for pedlars to have lived locally for one month before applying, to fall into line with EU legislation regarding discrimination.

The plans were scrapped following a backlash from local authorities and pedlars, and minister Jo Swinson instead promised to make the ‘minimum changes required’ to ensure the legislation’s compliance.

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