Rival supermarkets fail to back Tesco minimum price call

The UK’s major supermarkets have followed Tesco’s lead in backing the Government’s plan to ban below cost price alcohol but have stopped short of joining calls for a minimum unit price.

Alcohol
Alcohol

Tesco has lent its support to measures aimed at tacking alcohol abuse unveiled in the coalition agreement announced yesterday (21 May). but added it would also “stand ready to support” the Government if it was to “opt for” a minimum unit price for all beers, wines, ciders and spirits.

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition did not address minimum pricing in the coalition document, instead promising to “review alcohol taxation and pricing to ensure it tackles binge drinking without unfairly penalising responsible drinkers, pubs and important local industries.”

Sainsbury’s rejected the minimum price proposals, adding it “unfairly penalises our shoppers, the vast majority of whom buy alcohol as part of their weekly shop and drink responsibly in their own homes.”

“Furthermore, there is no reliable evidence that minimum pricing would tackle the problem of binge drinking,” a spokesman adds.

A spokeswoman for Waitrose did not offer a position on minimum pricing but did say that it backs the Government’s proposal on below cost alcohol “in line with its responsible approach to alcohol sales and promotions”.

Morrisons says it would “welcome the opportunity to discuss how to prevent below cost selling of alcohol” but did not reveal its stance on minimum pricing.

It adds: “Competition law rightly means that retailers are free to set their own prices and for this to change, the Government must find a legally safe way to enable retailers to have this discussion. We urge them to now make this happen.”

The SNP-led Scottish Government has been pushing hard for minimum pricing in Scotland to tackle excessive consumption. This is also an approach favoured by charities including Alcohol Concern.

However, most major retailers and drinks producers, and industry bodies the British Retail Consortium and The Portman Group, have previously rejected calls for minimum pricing, arguing that it would unfairly penalise the majority of responsible drinkers.

Asda did not respond to a request for comment before publication.

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