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Tesco backs call for end of below cost alcohol sales

Published:  21 May, 2010

Supermarket giant Tesco has become the first major UK retailer to support the new coalition government's commitment to ban the sale of alcohol below cost.

Tesco has announced a range of measures to cut down on anti-social drinking after listening to customers' concerns.

Other measures include putting unites on the front of bottles of alcohol for the first time and a major new community alcohol partnership in central London.

Tesco said it would also support a minimum unit price for all beers, wines, ciders and spirits, should ministers decide to go down that route.

Tesco said it acted after customer research showed that nearly 70% believed excessive drinking was one of the most serious issues facing the country.

More than half of the customers polled said that the availability of cheap alcohol contributed significantly to problem drinking in the UK.

Lucy Neville-Rolfe, Tesco's executive director for corporate and legal affairs, said: "Our research shows that excessive drinking is a major concern to consumers and we now know from our customers that they want us to help address the issue of low cost alcohol, which they feel fuels the anti-social behaviour and disorder which affects so many communities.

"Pricing controls can only be effective if they apply to all alcohol retailers - and the only way that can happen is through government taking the lead."

Wine and Spirit Trade Association chief executive Jeremy Beadles said: "The WSTA supports a ban on selling alcohol below the level of duty plus VAT on the basis that these are both consumer taxes and therefore the cost should be passed on to the consumer.

"While the WSTA remains opposed to minimum pricing we are keen to work with government on the issue of below-cost selling to ensure any future legislation does not discriminate against any particular section of the drinks industry.

"However, we do not believe that alcohol pricing and taxation provide the solution to alcohol misuse.

"What's needed is education and rigorous enforcement of laws to address misuse and related anti-social behaviour."

Dr Jeremy Howard, managing director of online independent merchant Slurp, said: "We think that super-aggressive campaigns (the three-for £10 type promotions) have done real damage to the image and profile of wine in this country.

"By treating wine like petrol, as a commodity to price with no or negative margin just to get customers through the door, they have encouraged irresponsible drinking, distorted competition and done nothing to improve the quality of wine sold in this country."