The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched new advice to retailers on local authority schemes to limit the supply of high-strength alcohol products.

The document includes advice on avoiding the risk of breaking competition law for retailers who are approached by councils to join a ‘Reducing the strength’ type scheme.

A number of local authorities have introduced voluntary schemes to stop selling beer or cider over a specified ABV, usually 6.5%, such as Portsmouth and Ipswich. But the legal ramifications of joining such schemes have been unclear to date.

The CMA’s advice to avoid breaking competition laws includes the following recommendations:

  • · Retailers should speak to council officers about their plans on an individual basis and should not discuss what other retailers may be doing with them
  • · Don’t share with competitors your plans regarding stocking high-strength alcohol and don’t let them share their plans with you
  • · Don’t make a commitment to sign up to a scheme in a meeting where other retailers are present
  • · Don’t collaborate with other retailers to agree to withdraw high-strength products
  • · Only go public about participating in a scheme once it is launched

“You can make an independent decision to join a scheme and stop selling high-strength alcohol – but don’t discuss this or agree to this in co-operation with other retailers,” the CMA document says.

To see the document, and an accompanying letter, click here.