EUROPE: European Commission warns against minimum pricing plans

By | 29 November 2012

The EC has urged against a minimum price

The EC has urged against a minimum price

The European Commission (EC) has urged the Scottish and UK Governments to abandon their plans for a minimum price as the measure is “disproportionate” and will be an obstacle to trade. 

An opinion from EC general secretary Catherine Day says that a minimum price will be an “obstacle to the free movement of goods” under EU law. Day acknowledged that cutting alcohol consumption among “harmful” drinkers is a priorty for Scotland, but added that the measure “raises doubts as to its compatibility with the principle of proportionality”. 

Instead, Day said that other measures, such as raising alcohol taxes could help cut consumption and are less restrictive to trade. However, Scotland does not currently have devolved powers to set its own alcohol duty rates. 

The opinion was leaked at the same time that the Westminster government yesterday (28 November) launched a consultation on a GBP0.45 minimum price

Day concluded: “The UK authorities are invited to abstain from adopting the draft legislation at issue”. 

The legality of minimum pricing has long been questioned by drinks industry trade groups. The Scotch Whisky Association launched a two-pronged legal challenge against minimum pricing in July. A judicial review in Edinburgh has been delayed after the Scottish Government asked for more time to respond to the SWA's evidence

At the time, the UK Government made an attempt to stop the EC's opinion being revealed in open court, but this move was rejected by the judge. A number of other European countries have also objected to minimum pricing, including Italy and Bulgaria. 

However, Home Office minister Damian Green, on an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme yesterday, insisted that minimum pricing is legal under EU law. 

Sectors: Beer & cider, Legislation, Spirits, Wine

Companies: SWA

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