The two bodies strongly believe there to be an overwhelming case for the development of a new code as the public perceive the current codes as applying to the on-trade only.
The two groups have therefore now called on the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence to lead the development of a new all-encompassing code for the responsible sale and promotion of alcohol which would be applied equally to both the off- and on-trade.
They argue that the Responsible Retailing of Alcohol in Ireland (RRAI) code as it applies to the off-trade lacks any meaningful sanctions, “does not deal with alcohol promotions whatsoever” and is “ambiguous, at best, in respect of merchandising”.
There is no public awareness of this ineffective code which is very narrow in focus, claim the two organisations who would hope to work closely with the Minister and all relevant stakeholders to agree new guidelines which would be applied equally to both the on-trade and off-trade.
Specifically, they request the Minister to commence, without delay, the regulations set out in the 2008 Intoxicating Liquor Act, particularly those in relation to the structural separation of areas for the sale of alcohol in supermarkets and the regulations regarding the promotion and sale of alcohol across all channels.
According to their statement, “In the absence of any code which applies equally to all premises that sell alcohol, the VFI and LVA are reluctantly withdrawing their support of the current MEAS (Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol in Society) promotional code and in line with this decision, are resigning from MEAS itself. This difficult decision has been taken after lengthy deliberation but the VFI and LVA believe they had no alternative due to the inequities of the current situation”.
Both publican organisations strongly believe their actions will help bring a single focus to this issue and will encourage a new wider-ranging, equitable and credible code.
“The LVA and VFI look forward to playing an active role in developing a new code for the promotion and sale of alcohol that reflects current purchasing trends and requires all those who sell alcohol to abide by the same codes and practices,” concludes their joint statement.
In response, MEAS Chief Executive Fionnuala Sheehan has called on Government to address the unregulated, below-cost sale of alcohol within the off-trade sector and to lead the development of an industrywide code of practice to regulate the merchandising, promotion and sale of alcohol.
“A comprehensive, co-regulatory code is required and MEAS would be very willing to assist in the development of such a code,” she stated recently.
Her statement followed communication by the VFI and LVA of their decision to withdraw from the voluntary MEAS Code on ‘The Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks’ and as a consequence, from membership of MEAS itself.
“I very much regret this decision by the two vintner organisations,” Fionnuala Sheehan said, “I understand that it was taken reluctantly and out of concern that the voluntary compliance of their members to the MEAS Code’s standards regarding promotions was placing them at a commercial disadvantage vis-a-vis their off-trade competitors and at a time when an unprecedented level of pub closures and job losses is occurring.”