Report censures alcohol retailing by supermarkets

The Government is set to turn its attention to supermarkets in its attempt to address concerns over underage and binge drinking.

A report on alcohol industry standards and best practice, due to be unveiled by the Home Office this week, is understood to call for a probe into low alcohol prices at retailers and how they impact on alcohol harm.

Earlier this year, the Home Office appointed management consultancy KPMG to review the alcohol industry’s existing voluntary codes, including the Portman Group’s code of practice and the alcohol advertising codes set up by the self-regulatory Advertising Standards Auth≠ority (MW February 7).

Insiders say that the KPMG report will turn the spotlight on supermarkets promoting low-price alcohol, as well as pubs and bars that offer “happy hours”, as part of plans to find effective ways to reduce under-age and binge drinking.

“We expect the report to say that self-regulation is working in alcohol advertising, but that there also needs to be a cohesive set of standards to bring retailers and pubs and bars in line with the rest of the industry,” says the insider.

The move to review the industry codes forms part of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith’s plans to tackle the problems of alcohol-related crime and disorder.

The report will increase pressure on supermarkets, which are already facing a string of investigations by the Office of Fair Trading into alleged price-fixing.

The inquiry is looking into the allegation that grocers and their suppliers sought to fix the price of over 100 everyday items.

It has also been reported that alcohol brands such as Carlsberg and Bulmers are being questioned by the OFT over pricing information.

Anyone found guilty of setting prices artificially high could be fined up to 10% of their annual sales.

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