The ban on retailers selling drinks for less than the tax paid on them will come into effect later this year (6 April). It means, for example, a 750ml bottle of vodka cannot be sold for under £10.16, a 440ml can of 5 per cent beer for less than 50p and a bottle of 12.5 per cent wine for under £2.41p.
The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), which counts Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Bacardi as members, says the ban will curb excessive discounting.
Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, says: “The WSTA welcomes the introduction of a below cost sales ban, which is supported by the industry, to deal with the worst cases of deeply discounted alcohol.
”We will be working with the Home Office to ensure that the guidance is widely understood and retailers have enough time to properly comply with the changes.”
Heineken supports the ban but says alcohol policy needs to focus more on initiatives to “tackle and support those individuals and groups who are most likely to misuse alcohol”.
A spokesman for the British Retail Consortium says the ban is an opportunity to demonstrate retailers have been acting responsibly despite criticism that some supermarkets have been selling alcohol cheaper than water. A 2008 Competition Commission review found six out of seven major supermarkets were selling alcohol up to 12 per cent below cost – a total of 220.2m litres per year.
The BRC spokeswoman adds: “We have said for a number of years that retailers were not selling below cost and this will demonstrate that. More important to us is maintaining our work with customers through clear unit labeling and reinforcement of sensible drinking limits which is changing the culture of drinking.”
The welcome by the alcohol and retail industry for the Government proposals follows last summer’s decision by ministers to shelve plans to introduce a minimum price by per unit of alcohol.
Alcohol charities have slammed the below-cost ban as a fudge and that a minimum price needs to be introduced to curb excessive drinking.
Eric Appleby, chief executive at Alcohol Concern, says: “The Government is wasting time when international evidence shows that minimum unit pricing is what we need to save lives and cut crime.”