Mandatory code puts multipack discounts on the line

03 December, 2008

The government is planning a mandatory drinks retailing code that could stop supermarkets discounting multipacks.

The proposals, part of a £4.5 million crackdown on alcohol-fuelled crime, were announced in the Queen’s Speech, which detailed the government's legislative programme for the coming year.

The new code will set out compulsory licensing conditions for all alcohol retailers, and will give licensing authorities new powers to clamp down on specific problems in their areas. Licensing authorities will also be able to impose their new powers on several premises at once.

There will now be a consultation on the possible compulsory conditions, which include staff training and unit labelling as well as a rule that means consumers don’t have to buy very large amounts of alcohol to take advantage of price discounts.

But the British Retail Consortium said banning supermarket alcohol promotions will do nothing to tackle irresponsible drinking, and warned that the move would penalise low-income families.

Director general Stephen Robertson said: “Denying hard-pressed customers access to value is wrong. We don’t want social disorder either, but controls on price and promotions will not tackle alcohol abuse. They just penalise millions of customers who drink perfectly responsibly.

“If there were a simple link between irresponsible consumption and cost, sources of high-priced alcohol such as pubs and clubs would not be the sources of insobriety they often are. Targeting multi-packs is perverse. These are precisely the way families buy alcohol to take home. They are not bought by young people on a night out.

“The way to make a real difference is by changing the culture around alcohol. Already retailers are voluntarily rolling out on-pack unit labelling. We will continue to lead the way in giving customers the information they need to drink sensibly.”

Plans to ban retailers from displaying tobacco products, expected to be announced in the Queen’s Speech, have been shelved according to reports.

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