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News retailers on both sides of the Irish border are being hit with another rise in overheads, after wholesaler and distributor Newspread announced a weekly surcharge of €2.20 in the Republic and £2 in Northern Ireland.

In a letter to retailers, Newspread blames the price of fuel for the increase in charges, which will apply to invoices from April 17, and says it is a temporary measure that will be removed “once conditions allow”.

The Fed’s Republic of Ireland president Martin Mulligan is sceptical about the reasons for the surcharge. He said: “This is yet another burden on already overburdened retailers.

“The government has already taken 20 cents off the excise duty on fuel, so the price at the pumps has actually gone down. Also, the contractors that Newspread use do not pay the full pump price, as they get a discount from the fuel companies.

“As for the surcharge being temporary, I don’t believe that for a minute, and I would love to see how much they are passing on to their contractors.”

Mr Mulligan’s counterpart in Northern Ireland, Coleraine retailer Joe Archibald, added: “This is totally unjustified. We are all having to absorb extra costs and it’s unfair to expect retailers to cover wholesalers’ costs as well. We can’t add this onto the price of the newspapers, so again we are losing out.”

The Fed has criticised the lack of notice given by Newspread and the fact that, as most Irish retailers are served by two wholesalers, they are forced to pay carriage charges twice.

The Fed’s head of news Brian Murphy said: “We are extremely disappointed with this move by Newspread and we are particularly concerned about the company’s continued refusal to engage with us in meaningful dialogue to find a reasonable solution to this ever increasing concern.

“News wholesalers have to understand that piling extra costs on retailers will result in many of them leaving the market altogether, which in turn will mean swathes of customers being unable to purchase their required read.”

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