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No more loyalty points on alcohol: Raft of changes to drink laws to take effect in January 2021

Health Minister Simon Harris said that alcohol should not be the subject of promotional activity.

NEW REGULATIONS AROUND the sale of alcohol are due to come into effect in January 2021.

The draft regulations aim to ban the following:

  • The awarding of loyalty card points or similar benefits on the purchase of an alcohol product and the use of loyalty card points or similar benefits to purchase an alcohol product
  • The sale of alcohol products at a reduced price or free of charge on the purchase of another product or service.
  • Short term price promotions – lasting three days or fewer – on alcohol products. 

The draft regulations were sent to the EU for assessment under what is known as the Technical Standards Directive.

This directive was brought in in 2015 to prevent new technical barriers to trade being created.  

Two comments were received — one from the European Commission querying whether the regulations applied to online sales (they do) and from Spain a short assertion that the regulations are anti-competitive.

As no detailed arguments against the draft regulations were received, the Minister can now make the regulations.

Health Minister Simon Harris said that he had planned to provide for a one year lead-in time for the regulations so that businesses will have time to prepare for the changes. 

He said that as Christmas is the busiest time of year for retailers it may be perceived as unreasonable to apply the regulations in December 2020. He added that, on that basis, 11 January 2021 is proposed as the date of introduction.

Minister 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.”

On Minimum Unit Pricing, Minister Harris added: “It remains the Government’s policy is to enact those provisions at the same time as similar provisions are enacted in Northern Ireland.

“Talks with the Northern Ireland parties are now under way in Northern Ireland. We would like a date for the introduction of minimum unit pricing in Northern Ireland to be part of any agreement among the Northern Ireland parties.

“We could then agree to do it on the same date. However we cannot wait forever. If it does not prove possible to adopt the approach I have set out, we may need to go ahead with the introduction of minimum unit pricing unilaterally.”

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