Marketing

New rules on sale of alcohol to be introduced on Monday


Many shoppers will be dismayed to learn that from Monday, alcohol sales will be disallowed from supermarket voucher schemes, while popular multi-buy deals will also be shelved. The changes come as part of the roll-out of the Government’s efforts to reduce the consumption of alcohol under the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018.

The Act, which has been a long time coming, has been gradually introduced over the past year or so (have you noticed those barriers in supermarkets for example?) but will finally hit consumers in more meaningful way next week.

From Monday, January 11th, three new measures are set to be introduced. Firstly, alcohol sellers will be banned from selling alcohol at a reduced price on the basis of the purchase of another product or service. This means that popular deals, such as “buy six bottles for €50”, or “buy six and get 25 per cent off”, will be disallowed, but discounts on individual bottles of alcohol will still be allowed. Offering loyalty points on alcohol sales will also be prohibited, while short-term promotions, of three days or less, will also banned.

The move means that customers of Dunnes Stores’ popular Shop & Save promotion will have to find another way of bringing their total up to the required €50/€100 in order to claim their discount, other than the commonly used tack of throwing another bottle of wine or six pack into their trolley. The supermarket giant has recently added a disclaimer to receipts, noting that the offer will exclude alcohol items from January 11th.

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Similarly, Super Valu is also telling its customers that alcohol products will no longer qualify for any incentives associated with its voucher scheme.

Grocers and off-licence outlets will also be prohibited from awarding loyalty card points on alcohol sales. O’Briens has already stopped offering loyalty points, and is telling its customers that they must spend any remaining points by January 10th, as from this date, it will “no longer be permitted to award or allow redemption of loyalty card points arising from the sale of alcohol”.

Alcohol Action Ireland, an advocate for reducing alcohol harm, has welcomed the move.

“These regulations will act as a small impediment to encouraging greater use and so contribute to reducing alcohol harm. Crucially, the ending of short-term promotion, so evident throughout the supermarket multiples, will bring some reason to what has been truly reckless price reductions on alcohol,” said Eunan McKinney, head of communications with the advocacy body.

The Act

The main goal of the act is to reduce alcohol consumption, by measures such as minimum unit pricing, regulation of advertising of alcohol products, and reduced visibility of alcohol products in supermarkets. The first changes under the Act were introduced in November 2019, when alcohol advertising was banned at bus stops, within 200 metres of all schools and during certain films at cinemas.

Subsequently, in November 2020, alcohol sections of supermarkets were cordoned off into areas separated by barriers, which had to be at least 1.2 metres high.

Next up, in November 2021, is a ban on alcohol advertising at sporting events or events aimed at children, and events involving driving or racing motor vehicles.

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The big change included in the Act is with respect to minimum pricing, which would set a floor on alcohol prices; however, the Government has previously indicated that this will have to wait until it can be introduced on both sides of the border at the same time.

Earlier this week, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar suggested cutting opening hours for off-licences, but this was in an effort to curtail the spread of Covid-19.



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