From 1 October 2011, anyone who sells goods in Wales, OR sells goods outside of Wales that are delivered in Wales, must charge a minimum of £0.05 per “single use carrier bag” provided.
The Single Use Carrier Bags Charge (Wales) Regulations 2010 apply where goods are transferred to another person in exchange for money, and the single use carrier bag is used for the purpose of taking the goods away. The sale must be made in the course of trade or business.
There are, therefore, certain situations where the obligation to charge will not arise. For example, where a single use carrier bag is used for goods which are free, e.g. a free brochure or promotional items, there is no sale and therefore the charge will not apply.
Similarly, where a bag is used for goods which have been exchanged for something other than money, (for example at a swap meet), there will be no sale and therefore no charge.
The requirement for the sale to take place in the course of trade or business allows some sellers to avoid the obligation to charge. A certain amount of frequency is required, so for example the regulations will not apply to people who occasionally sell items at car boot sales or on auction websites. This exemption is unlikely to apply in the case of direct sellers.
Note that the regulations apply to single use carrier bags. A durable “bag for life” will not attract the charge, as these are designed to be used more than once.
Bags for various purposes will be covered by an exemption under the Regulations. None of the exemptions seems likely to apply to direct selling.
Although there are circumstances in which the obligation to charge will not arise, either because the conditions are not met or the bag qualifies for one of the exemptions listed in the Regulations, it may be safest to start with the assumption that the charge will apply and then establish whether there is any reason why it may not. Where a seller is selling goods within Wales or selling goods which will be delivered in Wales, they should always be aware that is it likely the charge will apply. Anyone who gives carrier bags away free when they should have applied the charge will be breaking the law and could face a penalty of up to £5,000.
The Regulations do not specify what must be done with the 5p per bag collected. It should not be paid over to the Welsh government, as that would amount to taxation. Those who collect the money are merely encouraged to contribute it towards ecologically-friendly purposes.