The most recent decision by the Shadow Alcohol and Licensing Policy Group not to bring in its planned price restriction on supermarkets and shops selling alcohol on cut-price promotions is an interesting one. Not least because of the ability to see “people power” in action when more than 20,000 consumers signed the supermarkets’ petition to sway the group but also as it once again puts the inequity that currently exists between on-licence and off-licence alcohol sales in the spotlight.
CICRA has responded to consultations on the effect of potential changes to the Alcohol and Licensing Policy in terms of competition in Jersey: http://cicra.gg/_files/Consultation%20Response%20-%20FINAL.pdf.
Our overarching aim is to make markets work better for local consumers and that includes the market for alcoholic drinks. In our submission to the consultation we stressed that the group’s proposal to extend the ban on special offers on alcohol to off-licences constrained businesses from competing with each other to offer value for money and to attract customers and it may not deliver the policy outcomes that the group was seeking to achieve. CICRA raised a particular concern with the current policy where, if an on-licence (e.g. pub) retailer sold at less than 10% of its competitor prices, there was a risk it could lose its licence.
The review has stated that its consideration of removing the 10% cap doesn’t mean the new Alcohol and Licensing Policy Group will allow total deregulation of pricing across pubs and clubs when the new law comes into force. There are obviously wider policy objectives at play here which are important for society and the wider community. CICRA advocates the minimum regulation required for both on- and off-licence premises and is supportive of the group’s decision to consider alternative ways to reduce alcohol-related problems in Jersey.
The findings of the group’s review have yet to be finalised. It is due before the States by the end of the year with the new law expected to come into force by 2018. CICRA will continue to input into this process to ensure that due consideration is given to the best interests of the vast majority of consumers who drink responsibly.