The Competition Authority said imposing minimum prices for drink would make alcohol more profitable for retailers and publicans — and consumers would suffer.
The claims were made yesterday in the authority’s response to a government consultation about tackling alcohol abuse. Campaigners said supermarkets were selling drink at a loss to boost business, but promotions such as buy-one-get-one-free were encouraging consumers to drink more than they should.
Representatives of Ireland’s 4,719 off-licences want to see the return of the Groceries Order ban on below-cost selling of alcohol so drink is no longer cheap.
But yesterday the Competition Authority said the Government should not impose price controls but should increase taxes.
“Any attempt to ban below-cost selling will simply allow the drinks industry to set prices for the entire drinks market,” said authority chairman Bill Prasifka.
“Protecting the industry’s profits from the sale of alcohol is not the best way to discourage alcohol abuse.”
Consumers would lose out if the drinks industry was allowed to fix prices through a Groceries Order-style law, he said in the submission to the Government’s alcohol advisory group.
Researchers at the authority found the price of drink in off-licences and supermarkets had fallen 3% since the Groceries Order was abolished in March 2006.
But consumption had decreased between 2001 and 2007 by 6% per person.
Average consumption per adult — worked out as litres of pure alcohol a year — was 14.09 litres in 2001 but fell to 13.19 litres last year.
Yesterday, the National Off-Licence Association dismissed the authority’s claims, saying public order offences were on the rise and the Government needed to act on cheap booze.