Costs of Public Health (Alcohol) Bill unsustainable

Monday, 6 November 2017

Retail Ireland, the Ibec group that represents the retail sector, today highlighted its concern that proposals contained within the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill due back before the Seanad this week are disproportionate and have the potential to introduce huge costs for Irish retailers at a time they can ill afford them. Should it be passed, Section 20 of the Bill will force retailers to remove alcohol products from public visibility in stores, compel retailers to erect screens in excess of 7 feet, and require retailers to place opaque doors on storage units containing alcohol products.

Director of Retail Ireland, Thomas Burke said: “Retail Ireland members recognise that there is a problem with alcohol misuse in Ireland. We further recognise that as a responsible industry, and a key part of Ireland’s social and economic fabric, the retail sector has a key role to play in addressing this issue. While we are fully supportive of Government efforts to address this societal problem, there is no evidence to suggest that removing alcohol products from visibility in retail outlets will do anything to address the problem of alcohol misuse in Ireland. If this legislation is passed in its current form, independent estimates suggest that the in-store changes required would cost individual stores between €20,000 and €50,000, depending on store size, to ensure compliance. This is a burden the sector simply cannot carry, which aggregated across affected stores has been estimated to cost up to €70m.”

In recent weeks Government has insisted that it planned to bring an amendment to the Bill to address retailers’ concerns. Retail Ireland insisted however, that the amendment, as outlined late last week, does nothing to allay the sector’s concerns and would see less than 100 stores exempted from the legislation, under 4% of all retail outlets in the State.

As an alternative, Retail Ireland would support the placing of the current voluntary Responsible Retailing of Alcohol in Ireland Code on a statutory footing. Retail Ireland was instrumental in the creation of the Responsible Retailing of Alcohol in Ireland (RRAI) code in 2008. This code, which is supported by the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Health, is independently audited each year, and includes provisions around the display and advertising of alcohol along with alcohol merchandising and proof of age during the purchase process.

Mr Burke continued: “Alcohol is not an ordinary product, and the rules of the RRAI Code ensure that it is not permitted to be displayed or promoted as such. By placing the RRAI Code on a statutory footing it removes any necessity for the introduction of disproportionate and overly burdensome, complex new regulations for the retail sector in Ireland. This would be a holistic response to regulating the sale of alcohol in mixed trade outlets. Furthermore, a modest amendment to Section 20 of the Bill, as currently drafted, to remove the phrase ‘not readily visible’ would allay the fears of the Irish retail sector about the negative impact this legislation would have on their businesses, and allow all parties to focus on implementing what is a crucial, long overdue piece of legislation.”