Off-licences call for ban on below-cost selling in supermarkets

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The National Off-Licence Association (NOffLA) is calling on the Government to ban below-cost selling of alcohol.

Off-licences are also seeking a reduction in excise duty, as NOffLA argues that many small retailers are facing closure.

Mixed traders – chiefly supermarkets – now control approximately 80% of alcohol sales in Ireland, with NOffLA arguing that its sector is suffering greatly as a result.

NOffLA claims supermarkets can absorb as much as 68% of tax increases on popular products to keep their prices low, whilst off-licences can not.

In a pre-budget submission, it was pointed out that the Republic has the highest excise on wine in the EU, and the third highest tax on beers and spirits.

An extra €17,958 per 1,000 cases of wine is needed to cover the tax hikes that came about during recessionary times in Budget 2013 and 2014.

The group – representing around 300 businesses who employ some 5,900 people – released the results of its 2016 member survey which show that 55% of its off-licences would struggle to remain open if excise was increased this year.

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is currently before the Dáil, and would introduce minimum unit pricing measures.

Whether it could contravene EU law depends on the outcome of an ongoing case in Scotland. The European Court of Justice ruled late last year that minimum unit pricing there would breach EU law if alternative tax measures could be introduced that would have the same health benefits.

It has been referred back to the Court of Session in Edinburgh, where it is currently being deliberated on.

Eurostat figures released in June showed that Ireland remains the most expensive EU country in which to buy alcohol, at 175% of the EU average.

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