‘Investigate the supermarkets who sell alcohol at loss-making prices’

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Earlier this week Assistant Treasury Minister Lindsay Ash called for fairer pricing of alcohol in Jersey, claiming that continually upping duties was ‘immoral’ and a ‘regressive tax’.

He also suggested that CICRA, the competition regulator, should investigate the market pointing out that despite Jersey’s taxes on alcohol being much lower than the UK’s, the average price of a pint in the Island was still much higher.

Under Jersey regulations, pubs risk losing their licence if they offer a drink at a price which is 10% cheaper than a competitor, which the assistant minister said could prevent chains, such as Wetherspoons, from coming to the Island.

Gavin Reid, the managing director of Randalls, also said that he opposed the continual rise in alcohol duties, which the States justify with a health argument.

‘Price increases are not something we like to impose on our customers. However, our government still believes that by increasing duty this will deter people from drinking,’ he said.

‘[This] is seen as their approach to addressing the health issues relating to alcohol consumption. Personally I disagree with their methodology and believe that all it does is penalise our customers who have a sensible approach to drinking.’

Mr Reid said that he disagreed with any suggestion the Assistant Treasury Minister might have made that breweries were inflating prices for their customers. He claimed that factors including the weakening pound, increased shipping costs and the higher minimum wage, which had forced up labour costs, had all pushed up prices lately, as well as duty increases.

‘Given we have the added cost over our UK equivalents of getting the beer to our Island and then returning the empty kegs, I really struggle to understand how Deputy Ash believes we are over-inflating our prices,’ he said.

Mr Reid added that he felt that supermarkets should instead be investigated for continually selling alcohol on cut-price deals, while the pubs are banned from doing so.

‘Perhaps he [Deputy Ash] should focus his attention on the certain local supermarkets who we can evidence are selling alcohol, as loss-leaders, at a lower price than we can actually land certain products in Jersey as a drinks wholesaler,’ he said.

‘Given off-licensed premises have no restrictions on alcohol promotions, unlike on-licensed premises, it would appear that [the States are saying] the alcohol sold in these outlets is less damaging to health than we sell in our regulated on-licensed pubs.’

Earlier in the week, Deputy Ash said he believed that drinking could be better monitored in pubs than among people who bought alcohol from a supermarket and drank it at home.

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