Supermarkets are set to receive the green light to keep selling cheap booze despite complaints from publicans the practice is undermining efforts to promote responsible drinking.
The Competition Commission, which has been conducting a 16-month investigation into supermarket alcohol pricing led by commission chairman Peter Freeman, is expected to reject calls for a ban on heavy discounting of beer, wines and spirits when it publishes its report.
Yesterday The Observer cited an enquiry source which claimed the Competition Commission would "look at what's good or bad for consumers in terms of their pockets rather than their livers".
The on-trade has repeatedly argued supermarket pricing policies are undermining their efforts to retail alcohol responsibly and promote sensible drinking.
Last month the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) cited Competition Commission research stating that the big four supermarkets (Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrison's) sold £112.7m of beer, wines and spirits below cost during the football World Cup last year.
Nick Bish, chief executive at the ALMR, told Caterer: "It is a matter of responsible behaviour, not contractual detail. If you can do a deal you may or may not pass on that price to your customers. The Competition Commission's] hands are tied and they are obliged to say what they can rather than what they want to."
John McNamara, chief executive at the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII), said: "Does price drive anti-social behaviour? There is no firm evidence on that. The whole industry is concerned that alcohol does not go into the wrong hands. The on-trade and the off-trade have worked together to cut down on under-age sales and serving to those who are drunk."
By Christopher Walton
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