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WSTA warns mandatory code is not solution

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association in the UK warns today that the planned mandatory code for alcohol retailers in its current form will not tackle alcohol misuse but will simply add unnecessary bureaucracy to businesses, the cost of which will ultimately be met by the majority of consumers.

The WSTA has participated in an extensive consultation process, during which many of those involved in enforcement, including trading standards and police officers, have made their opposition to the code clear.

In its submission to the UK Government's consultation on an industry wide code, the WSTA calls for targeted policies to address problem drinkers, proper enforcement of the existing laws and a local partnership approach to tackle problem areas.

The WSTA has urged officials to abandon a provision enabling local authorities to curb promotional offers on multiple quantities of beers, wines and spirits, pointing out that in the case of wine, for example, it would primarily affect fine wine merchants rather than the problem drinkers ministers say they wish to tackle.

In other respects the current code proposals seem retrograde or unnecessary, for example the plans to impose the Challenge 21 age verification request scheme, when thousands of retail outlets around the UK have already moved to Challenge 25.

WSTA chief executive Jeremy Beadles said: "We have approached this consultation constructively from the start but, while we share the Government's ambition to tackle the minority of irresponsible businesses and consumers, we fear this code in its current form is unlikely to have the desired objective of reducing alcohol disorder.

"Instead of encouraging successful partnership working, which has delivered the Challenge 25 and Community Alcohol Partnerships initiatives to reduce underage sales, we fear the code is going to punish the majority of responsible businesses and consumers. It's time for a rethink."

To read the WSTA submission to the Government consultation click here

1 August 2009 - Felicity Murray