On 9 January 2020, the Minister for Finance signed the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 (Sale and Supply of Alcohol Products Regulations) 2020.
These regulations introduce, with effect from 11 January 2021, restrictions on the ability of businesses to promote alcohol products at reduced prices and/or award loyalty points for the purchase of alcohol products. The rules will also restrict the use of loyalty or bonus points arising from the purchase of non-alcohol products to purchase alcohol products. This will have a direct impact on a number of businesses, including supermarkets who award points connected with grocery shopping and retail off-licenses who offer similar customer reward points schemes.
It will also be illegal to market alcohol products at a reduced price or free of charge to any person who buys any another product. This may also impact pubs and restaurants who currently offer a free or reduced price drink with food.
It will be illegal to run reduced price promotions in respect of the sale of alcohol products for 3 days or less - no more weekend offers to drive sales.
What does this mean for the retailer
Businesses that sell alcohol products need to ensure before the deadline (11 January 2021) that there are no schemes in place to award loyalty points to customers who purchase alcohol or to otherwise offer alcohol at a reduced price when sold with other products
A number of practical legal issues will also need to be ironed out – such as the closure or amendment of existing reward or bonus schemes and the use of any benefits accrued by customers under those schemes before the January 2021 deadline.
Those who are found to be in contravention of the regulation shall be guilty of an offence under Section 8 of the Act, which can carry a maximum fine of €250,000 fine or custodial sentence (dependent upon the severity of the breach).
The regulations also state that a list of defaulters will be retained by the Department, which would then have implications on the ability of defaulter to renew their liquor licence.
These regulations bring into effect further provisions of the Act that was the subject of much debate back in 2017/2018. As noted in our previous insight, the provisions relating to advertising restrictions were the first to be enacted, and other provisions will come in over the next two years, such as structural separation of mixed trade outlets. Minimum Unit Pricing has yet to be commenced as the Department was hoping to introduce this at the same time as Northern Ireland. We will update our readers if this is introduced.
Owners of businesses that sell alcohol products should take all steps necessary to update their systems so that loyalty points are not allocated on alcohol products before the deadline. All special offers for alcohol products will need to be marketed within the strict guidelines of the regulations.
For more information on how the anticipated legislative reforms will affect your business processes and the way alcohol products will be sold, contact a member of our Food, Agriculture & Beverage team.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.