European Court rules against minimum alcohol pricing

Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland welcomes ruling which means minimum pricing in Ireland could be deemed illegal

New legislation for Ireland on minimum pricing of alcohol will likely be impacted by the European Court of Justice’s ruling.

New legislation for Ireland on minimum pricing of alcohol will likely be impacted by the European Court of Justice’s ruling.

 

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that the Scottish Government’s plan for a minimum alcohol price would breach EU law if less restrictive tax measures could be introduced.

Judges at the Luxembourg court concluded that the policy would restrict the market, which could be avoided by the introduction of an alternative tax measure designed to increase the price of alcohol.

They said it was ultimately for the national court of an EU state to determine whether other measures would be as effective in achieving the desired public health benefit.

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) welcomed the ruling by European Court of Justice. It said it meant that minimum unit pricing is unlikely to be implementable in Ireland.

“ABFI wants to play its part in tackling alcohol misuse and believes that the reintroduction of a ban on below cost selling would be a much more effective means of ensuring alcohol is not sold as a loss leader”, it said in a statement. It said that this would end the deep discounting that distorts the market.

It said it now wanted the Department of Health “ to engage with the industry to prioritise finding an effective solution to tackle the sale of cheap alcohol – such as reintroducing the ban on selling alcohol below cost price – which has been proven to be effective in this market.”

Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) officials mounted a legal challenge alongside other European wine and spirits producers after legislation to introduce minimum pricing was passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2012.

The case will now be referred back to the Court of Session in Edinburgh for a final decision.

Earlier this month, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar published the Public Health Alcohol Bill which will introduce minimum pricing in Ireland.

The proposed legislation, which was to be passed by the middle of next year, will likely be impacted by the European Court of Justice’s ruling.

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI), an umbrella group representing drinks manufacturers and suppliers, welcomed today’s ruling

“ABFI wants to play its part in tackling alcohol misuse and believes that the reintroduction of a ban on below cost selling would be a much more effective means of ensuring alcohol is not sold as a loss leader and would end the deep discounting that distorts the market. ABFI believes that excise increases are not a viable solution in addressing the sale and misuse of alcohol. Ireland already has the most expensive alcohol in the EU and pays amongst the highest taxes on alcohol,” it said in a statement.