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Belgian woman fined for buying bottled water in France
A Belgian woman has been fined €414 for buying hundreds of litres of bottled water from a French hypermarket - in a cautionary tale for cross-border shoppers looking to save money on their groceries.
The woman from La Louvière was stopped by customs officers after she made a 100km round trip over the French border in her van to stock up on 70 packs of six mineral watter botles - 630 litres in total.
Pascal Camby, head of the customs mobile unit in Charleroi, said the quantity of water was considered "too large" for personal consumption.
While it is common for Belgians living near the border to do their shopping in France, Germany or the Netherlands, customs officers are on the lookout for people buying thousands of litres of water to sell in Belgian convenience stores at a higher profit margin. Plastic water bottles in Belgium attract an excise duty of nine cents per litre to cover the cost of recycling.
Retail federation Comeos estimates that cross-border shopping accounts for €820 million a year in lost trade for Belgian businesses.
Belgian residents are allowed to buy up to 800 cigarettes, 1kg of rolling tobacco and 200 cigars from a cross-border shop in any single trip. Beer imports are limited to 110 litres, wine 90 litres and spirits 10 litres.