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UK: Below-cost alcohol ban due to take effect this month

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A long-delayed ban on below-cost price alcohol sales in the UK is due to come into force at the end of this month.

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The new law, designed to tackle cheap, off-trade alcohol deals, is set to be enforced from 28 May after both Houses of Parliament signed off on the measure this week. The law will stop on- and off-trade outlets from selling alcohol below the cost of duty plus VAT.

The ban, part of a wider government alcohol strategy, was originally due to be enforced in April 2012. However, ministers shelved the plans as they considered minimum unit pricing as an alternative. Now that a move towards minimum pricing has been put on hold, the below-cost ban is seen to be the next best option.

"The ban prevents businesses from selling alcohol at heavily-discounted prices and aims to reduce excessive alcohol consumption and its associated impact on alcohol related crime and health harms," government documents state. 

Under the new law, a 4% abv can of 44cl will have to cost at least GBP0.41 (US$0.69); an 11.5% abv bottle of wine must be priced at least GBP2.41 or above and a 1-litre bottle of 40% abv spirits must cost GBP13.55 or above.

Government figures last year showed that UK supermarkets sell around 220m litres of below-cost alcohol a year.

Kate Nicholls, strategic affairs director at pub and bar trade body the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers said: “The new legislation will finally address this – but it will only tackle the very worst excesses.”

For official government information on the ban, click here.


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