Drinks trade welcomes call for government-led pricing talks

22 February, 2008

The Wine & Spirit Trade Association has backed Tesco’s call to the government to bring in legislation to ensure responsible pricing on alcohol and alcohol promotions.

Yesterday Tesco told the government it was wiling to take an active role in discussions on the subject, but warned it was up to ministers to initiate them.

Current competition law means retailers cannot conspire together to set prices and Tesco said it would not raise prices alone for fear of losing custom.

Speaking on behalf of the trade, WSTA spokesman Gavin Partington said: “Tesco is right to say that competition law prevents an industry wide discussion on the price and promotion of alcohol; we’ve been saying this to Government for some time.

“Our view is that price and promotion is not the real issue in terms of alcohol misuse - surely countries like France and Spain with much cheaper alcohol would have similar problems if it was. But it makes sense to at least have a discussion about these issues. If that’s to happen the Government has to address the competition law barrier.”

Tesco’s statement came as the British Medical Association released its report Alcohol misuse: tackling the UK epidemic.

In the report the BMA calls for higher taxes on alcohol and an end to “irresponsible promotional activities” such as happy hours and two-for-one offers.

Tesco’s executive director for corporate and legal affairs, Lucy Neville-Rolfe said the company accepted it had a role to play in addressing anti-social drinking, but that it was "too simplistic to apportion responsibility for (problem drinking) on price alone."

“We need to better understand the impact of price and be mindful of the fact that the vast majority of people consume alcohol responsibly and shouldn’t be penalised for the actions of less responsible drinkers.

“To get this understanding and move forward all shops that sell alcohol need to act together – and this is where we are being held back by the law,” she said.

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