Septuagenarian Eddie Pittman was distinctly unimpressed by Tesco's gesture to the nation's health: something should be done about cheap booze. He says he's old enough to remember Resale Price Maintenance which the Tory government swept away over a quarter of a century ago. Actually I remember it, too, at least I remember the furore in the grocery press which I had just joined. There was much quoting of the American Robinson-Patman Act as well, as a means of balancing this freedom to charge what you like.
Otherwise known as the Anti-Price Discrimination Act, this federal law prohibits what were considered to be anticompetitive practices by producers, specifically price discrimination. It grew out of practices in which chain stores were allowed to purchase goods at lower prices than other retailers. The Act provided for criminal penalties, but contained a specific exemption for 'cooperative associations'. It never got adopted here, but Resale Price Maintenance had some teeth.
Eddie says: "I can remember Mars coming down like a ton of bricks on someone down the street who was undercutting the rest of us. If they brought back Resale Price Maintenance on alcohol it would solve the problem of cheap deals."
And, as Eddie points out, the government would also rake in more VAT than they currently do on cut-price goods.
Eddie is also doing his bit for the nation's health. At his store, Pittman's Off Licence in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, he has a charity box, in the shape of Sooty, for the Royal National Institute for the Blind. "If they ask for a carrier bag for their beer, I tell them 'money for Sooty'."