Wednesday 18 September 2019

Alcohol crackdown: Cheap drink deals to take a hit and shoppers won't get loyalty points

  • Cut price and short term deals also facing ban
  • Certain special offers will also be cut out
Simon Harris (Aoife Moore/PA)
Simon Harris (Aoife Moore/PA)

Eilish O'Regan and Allison Bray

SUPERMARKET shoppers are to lose out on loyalty card points for purchases of alcohol under a new clampdown by the Government.

Customers will also be barred from using loyalty card points or similar benefits to purchase alcohol products when they do their grocery shopping.

The shops will be banned from certain special offers to lure customers to buy more drink at a discount.

It will mean 'specials' such as offering a slab of beer for half price as part of a two-product deal will be outlawed. It will also mean an end to short-term price promotions of three days or less.

Health Minister Simon Harris has announced that he plans to trigger the new measures, which are part of the Public Health Alcohol Bill, subject to approval from the EU.

The aim is to have the rules in place from September next year.

Millions of shoppers avail of loyalty cards and similar reward schemes and until now, alcohol purchases have been part of the promotions on offer.

But the major move by the Government aims to shift the consumers' mindset away from 'bargain' alcohol purchases.

This is in addition to plans for minimum pricing on alcohol, which the Government is also working to introduce.

Data from the CSO shows that €7.447bn was spent on alcoholic beverages in 2018 - about half of this was in shops, to be consumed at home.

The most recent Household Budget Survey also suggests the average household spends €10.56 on 'drink consumed at home' every week.

In a bid to change consumer mindsets, Health Minister Simon Harris said: "Alcohol is not an ordinary grocery product. By restricting access to alcohol products through promotions or loyalty card programmes, the regulations align with the objectives of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018, which are to reduce alcohol consumption and reduce the harms caused by the misuse of alcohol.

"Alcohol is a drug and one which has real risks and harms associated with it and as such, should not be a subject of promotional activity."

Loyalty cards remain hugely popular in Ireland with recent research suggesting that nine in 10 Irish shoppers use them.

Read more: Another nudge to customers that grocery shopping should not include alcohol

Empathy Research figures for 2016 show how Tesco (82pc), Dunnes Stores (72pc) and SuperValu (61pc) all have a high proportion of sign-up levels.

Alcohol Action Ireland welcomed the new rules and said: "It is a small, but significant step in reinforcing the principle that alcohol is not an ordinary commodity."

However, spokesman Eunan McKinney said it was also time for the Government to set a timetable for the introduction of minimum unit pricing of alcohol, as well as other major parts of the legislation.

Meanwhile, Vincent Jennings, CEO of the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association, criticised the timing.

He said it would only encourage more shoppers to go North to buy alcohol, while the Republic faces the uncertainty of Brexit. "Is now the time to be sending business away?" he asked.

Read more: Eilish O'Regan: 'Government needs to crack down on drink prices that put health of young people at risk'

Earlier this week, it was confirmed that Brexit means the return of duty-free shopping between the Republic of Ireland and Britain. This means travellers will be able to avail of cut-price alcohol and tobacco.

Mr Jennings questioned why the majority of people who do not have a problem with alcohol should continually be discommoded.

Read more: Sobering thought: why are booze-free drinks so expensive?

Irish Independent

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