Local authorities could set drinks prices

30 January, 2009

The government’s new mandatory code on drinks sales and promotions could allow local authorities to set minimum prices for retailers in their areas, an early draft leaked to OLN has revealed.

The draft mandatory code, which has been circulated to key stakeholders but has not yet been approved by ministers, said it was looking for alternatives to minimum pricing or limiting discounts for supermarkets nationwide.

“We want to be sure that any action is sufficiently targeted at binge-drinking and will not adversely affect the majority of adults who drink responsibly. We would welcome your alternative ideas for ensuring that we target pricing that encourages irresponsible drinking,” it said.

But a list of conditions that may be applied locally to more than one premises included: “The sale of very low-priced alcohol to be prohibited or limited.”

Locally enforceable conditions also include forcing shops to display alcohol separately from other products; banning or restricting the external display of discounted price offers; training schemes to be approved by the licensing authority; and designated premises supervisors to keep incident books recording any crime or disorder in their shops, which they must show to police or licensing officers if asked.

In a joint statement on the draft code, the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, British Retail Consortium and Association of Convenience Stores said: “Setting blanket conditions for whole areas could penalise responsible premises that happen to be in an area experiencing problems.

“If the power to set price and promotions policy were to be included in the list of available local conditions, there could be a real barrier to free and fair competition in the marketplace. Outlawing multibuy promotions in the off-trade could inadvertently make it illegal to sell wine by the case.”

The countrywide mandatory code will also enshrine in law Challenge 21, the policy of asking anyone who looks under 21 for valid photo ID such as a passport or PASS card, if the current draft is ratified.

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