Budget retailer B&M has been told it could face prosecution unless it stops allegedly allowing customers to flout coronavirus laws in east London.
Barking and Dagenham Council issued the bargain chain with a Community Protection Notice this week after covid marshals said they repeatedly witnessed store staff “failing to enforce the wearing of face coverings”.
The council gave the company, which has three stores in the borough, a warning about enforcing Government rules last month. Sainsbury’s, Lidl, and Morrisons stores in the area were also warned.
But the council said it has had “no direct communication with B&M” since and enforcement officers “have continued to observe the stores failing to ask customers to wear a face covering whilst shopping”.
The Community Protection Notice legally requires the company to “stop applying a policy of non-enforcement” and to “stop allowing access to their stores to any person who is not wearing a face covering”, unless they have a legal exemption.
The notice will also require B&M to put in place a system of surveillance to ensure face coverings are worn on their premises.
If it refuses it could face court action and fines.
Council leader Darren Rodwell said: “We are not taking any messing from the supermarkets. I’m pleased to say most supermarkets have actually stepped up their game.
“Unfortunately we can’t say that for B&M. We have had complaints from staff and [customers] so we’ve had to take formal action.”
Councillor Margaret Mullane, cabinet member for enforcement and community safety, added: “The welfare of our residents is our number one priority and this is why we have been working hard throughout the pandemic to ensure the safety of our whole community.
“We continue to work with businesses across the borough and high street retailers are not exempt – they have a duty to keep their customers safe.
“We’ve made it clear from day one that we will enforce on any business, big or small, if they are not following the rules and we are doing just that with B&M. I hope they listen and act on what we have asked them to.”
B&M did not respond to repeated requests for a comment.