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Sale of Liquor Amendments Stops Short

Media release

2 April, 2004

Sale of Liquor Amendments Stop Short from providing increased choice and convenience to consumers

An amendment to the Sale of liquor Act was passed under urgency by Parliament yesterday (1 April) in time to allow wineries to trade on Easter Sunday.

However, the Distilled Spirits Association, among other industry organisations, is disappointed that the Bill has failed to address a number of other trading inconsistencies existing within the Act, despite claiming to give consumers an “increased degree of choice.”

“The amendments have exaggerated an already unfair trading system. Wineries are now permitted to trade on Easter Sunday, but ludicrously, the law still bans all of the other liquor licensees like pubs and bottle stores the right to trade on this day,” says Thomas Chin, chief executive of the Distilled Spirits Association of New Zealand.*

Mr Chin points out another confusing amendment included in yesterday’s Bill, which sees cooking wines, which can contain more than 15% alcohol by volume, permitted for sale from supermarkets.

“Illogically, spirits, liqueurs, wine coolers, ports, sherries, vermouths and general alcoholic beverages (GABs) are still prohibited from being sold in supermarkets, despite all being complementary with food and spirits, liqueurs, ports and sherries being commonly used for cooking purposes as well.”

“This discrimination cannot be rationally justified. As a proponent of fair and equitable trading we’re disappointed that the Bill has stopped short of making provisions within the Bill for all alcohol beverage types to be permitted for sale in supermarkets and grocery stores.”

“The Bill is clearly not discriminating certain beverage types on the basis of alcohol content because wine coolers and pre-mixed drinks, which are low alcohol beverages containing between 5 and 7 percent alcohol by volume, are still not permitted for sale, while higher alcohol beverages like table wine and now cooking wine are.”

Table wine and cooking wine contain up to 15% alcohol by volume (abv) and specialty beer, which is also sold in supermarkets, can contain up to 12% abv.
Thomas Chin believes prohibiting the sale of certain types of liquor in supermarkets and grocery stores makes no sense and gives other alcohol retail formats unfair competitive trading advantages over others that have restrictions imposed.

“The Law permits consumers to purchase all types of liquor from bottle stores, pubs, clubs, taverns, restaurants, duty free stores, brassieres, canteens and “Cash ‘n Carry” stores and even Parliament’s Bellamy’s, but not from supermarkets or grocery stores.”

“It is difficult to see how the reforms will give consumers an increased degree of choice as it currently stands. A simple addition to the Bill would have ended an anomaly that commercially disadvantages some drinks industry sectors and illogically restricts choice and convenience of shopping options.”

“Surely it is reasonable for responsible, adult consumers to enjoy the right and convenience of purchasing all liquor at the same time and location as their other household goods.”

The adult shoppers of Australia, Japan, Russia, China, UK, Ireland, USA, France, Germany and Spain are unrestricted in the range of liquor that they may choose to purchase with their food and other convenience items at supermarkets.

Whilst the recent Sale of Liquor Amendment Bill may have been narrow in its scope, the Distilled Spirits Association urges the Minister responsible for the liquor legislation, Rick Barker, to introduce new legislation to remedy outstanding trading inconsistencies and anomalies within the Act that allow an unfair retail and licensing system to exist.

“Such a move would better reflect contemporary times and truly allow consumers freedom of choice, bringing New Zealand into line with the 19 other OECD countries that allow their citizens the benefit of being able to buy all types of alcohol beverages from their supermarkets and grocery stores. These societies have not reported or experienced any significant problems, and it is therefore unlikely to be any different in New Zealand.”

The Sale of Liquor Amendment Bill (No. 2) comes just over four years after the last round of legislative reforms, which permitted beer sales in supermarkets, allowed licensed premises to trade seven days a week, and lowered the legal age of purchase.


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