New rules on sale of alcohol come into force today

Multi-buy deals ‘6 bottles for €40’ no longer allowed and alcohol voucher schemes to end

Alcohol sellers will be banned from selling alcohol at a reduced price on the basis of the purchase of another product or service from Monday.

Alcohol sellers will be banned from selling alcohol at a reduced price on the basis of the purchase of another product or service from Monday.

 

Alcohol sales will be disallowed from supermarket voucher schemes from Monday, while popular multibuy deals will also be shelved. The changes come as part of the rollout of Government efforts to reduce the consumption of alcohol under the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018.

The Act has been introduced gradually over the past year or so – including features such as the recent introduction of barriers to keep alcohol away from general grocery areas – but will finally hit consumers in a more meaningful way next week.

From January 11th, three new measures will 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.

Discounts on the price of 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, can no longer take place.

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 than the commonly used approach of throwing another bottle of wine or six pack into the trolley. The supermarket giant has recently added a disclaimer to receipts, noting that the offer will exclude alcohol items from January 11th.

Similarly, SuperValu is informing its customers that alcohol products will no longer qualify for any incentives associated with its voucher scheme.

Grocers and off-licence outlets will be prohibited from awarding loyalty card points on alcohol sales. O’Briens, the off-licence chain, has already stopped offering loyalty points and has told customers that they must spend any remaining points by January 10th. From that date, the group 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 promotions, so evident throughout the supermarket multiples, will bring some reason to what have 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.

Last November, supermarkets were obliged to cordon off alcohol sections in areas separated by barriers, which must be at least 1.2 metres high.

In November this year, a ban on alcohol advertising at sporting events or events aimed at children, and events involving driving or racing motor vehicles will come into force.

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.