Below cost ban in place
You could be forgiven for not noticing, but the Government's ban on below cost sales is in effect. The legislation came into force on the 28th May 2014 as a new Mandatory Condition of the 2003 Licensing Act.
- Can of 440ml beer at 4% ABV = 40 pence
- 750ml bottle of 12.5% ABV wine = £2.46
- 70cl bottle of 37.5% ABV spirits = £8.89
However it has been estimated the ban will affect only 0.7% of alcohol units sold, according to research by Sheffield University. A recent Dispatches documentary however said it had analysed thousands of supermarket prices from the last five years but could not find any drinks below cost. However a Home Office statement to the programme said it was the "first ever [UK] Government intervention to set a floor price for alcohol and its significance should not be underestimated."
The below cost ban has of course been amidst the Coalition Government's controversial alcohol policy dramas since the start. First announced as a Conservative Manifesto pledge in 2010, it was then superseded by the infamous 2012 Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) commitment. The below cost ban was resurrected last year following the MUP u-turn - though of course officially MUP has not been 'ruled out'.
Generally there appears to have been little opposition to the below cost ban - unlike MUP - although Sainsbury's have said customers will no longer receive Nectar points on spirits or liquers. Sainsbury's say this is in the "interests of simplicity" in response to "complex laws", but a Home Office spokesperson said Sainsbury’s had “gone above” what was required by the law.
Further changes to the Mandatory Code on 'irresponsible drinking'
The current Mandatory Code conditions are being tightened up through a legal order due to come into force on the 1st October 2014. Currently the Mandatory Code legislates for on-trade premises:
- an age verification policy must be in place
- a ban on dispensing alcohol directly into customers’ mouths
- mandatory provision of free tap water
- the mandatory provision of smaller measures such as 125ml wine measures
The Government recently announced further pledges as part of the Responsibility Deal with alcohol industry partners, including some pubs and bars agreeing to have house wines below 12.5% ABV on offer and actively promoting lower-alcohol products.