Alcohol prices: Chief Minister to meet CICRA

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Last month Assistant Treasury Minister Lindsay Ash called for action to be taken to reduce the price of alcoholic drinks in the Island’s bars, restaurants and pubs, claiming that responsible drinkers are paying too much.

The Deputy, who pledged to freeze alcohol duties during his election campaign last year, said that he had become concerned about the competitiveness of the alcohol market after learning that drink taxes were lower here than in the UK, but the average price of a pint was still much higher.

He has since asked Chief Minister John Le Fondré to ask CICRA, the competition watchdog, to investigate the matter.

A government of Jersey spokeswoman confirmed that Senator Le Fondré was due to discuss the matter with CICRA next month.

‘A meeting has been arranged next month to discuss the issue. Any decision to conduct an investigation would be made after that meeting,’ she said.

Under Jersey regulations, pubs risk losing their licence if they offer a drink at a price which is 10% cheaper than a competitor. The same restrictions do not apply to off-licence sellers such as supermarkets, which often sell alcohol at loss-making prices to attract custom.

Following a review of the alcohol licensing market in 2016, CICRA concluded that the current policy ‘could be harming competition and artificially raising prices since it places pub licensees at risk of losing their licence when they compete too strongly on price’.

The watchdog also said it was concerned that similar restrictions do not apply to off-licence alcohol retailers, such as the supermarkets.

Deputy Ash said that the more he finds out about Jersey’s alcohol-licensing market, the more he thinks it needs to be investigated.

‘I went into a cornershop recently and they sell Becks non-alcoholic lager. They told me that they get it for 45p per can and sell it for a pound, so that’s a 100% mark up,’ he said.

‘They sell it in the pub for £2.90. But it is a non-alcoholic drink, so taxes don’t apply. So there is clearly some sort of discrepancy between what the shops are charging and what the breweries are charging for the same drink.’

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