Illegal selling - it's been a problem for years. | Archive

The national government's delegation in the Balearics, together with the Guardia Civil and National Police, is to draft a document to do with illegal street selling. It will be sent to town halls, with the aim of influencing bylaws and tackling the proliferation of illegal sellers.

The agreement to send this document follows another meeting with the business associations, Afedeco and Pimem, which constantly point to the damage caused to small retailers' business. It also comes two months after the delegation reminded town halls of their responsibilities for dealing with illegal selling.

The government's delegate, Maria Salom, said she understood the frustration of business representatives and restated a commitment of the state security forces for dealing with the illegal activity. She stressed that there is a fight against the "mafias" which distribute goods to the sellers, as evidenced by a joint Guardia Civil/Palma police operation last week. As for the occupation of the "public way", she noted that this is an issue which needs to be handled by individual town halls.

Calvia town hall last week released figures that showed a notable rise in the number of charges issued by police for illegal selling. While Calvia might be an example of a town hall attempting to crack down, there is a sense that the document is aimed at town halls which seem to equivocate - Palma being one of them.

However, one of the problems for town halls and local police is that they can charge people with offences but these have only limited effect. The sellers are often back out on the streets in no time and fines aren't necessarily paid.

Illegal street selling, though it is said to now be proliferating, has been widespread for years. It used to mainly only be an issue during the summer tourism season, but in the recent past - in Palma if nowhere else - it has virtually become all year.

An indication of just how long there has been a problem and also of the difficulties in dealing with it can be found in an old edition of the local magazine for Palmanova and Magalluf. In 1989, there was a report outlining Calvia police's initiative against illegal selling. And by 1989, it was hardly a new phenomenon.

A new document to assist with bylaws may help, but history shows how seemingly intractable a problem it is.