Fabian Demicoli

New regulation limiting the sale of alcohol products

 GRTU is strongly against these new regulations. First of all it is a mistake for Government that through regulation it creates an unfair commercial disadvantage to one sector of retailers against another. The regulations as published put bars at an advantage and confectioners at a disadvantage and they confuse the situation where mini-markets and super-markets and other food and drink retailers are concerned. They also confuse the situation where Kiosks are involved. Retailers are licensed to sell during all hours in which they are open and they cannot be expected to lock away a section of their retailing establishment after a certain hour or to introduce searches in bags at the cash-point after a certain hour to ensure that consumers have not purchased what the law prohibits them from buying after a certain hour.

 

A number of super-markets and other food retailers have been opening late either in the summer season or once a week and the consumer, irrespective of the limitations already existent in the law, purchased without restriction. Now they cannot be expected to refrain from doing and practicing what in fact had become an acquired right.

The whole approach of Government is wrong. Government through the Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism has identified a problem in Paceville where there is actual evidence of alcohol abuse. The solution however should not be prohibitionist or one which interferes with retailers` licences and with consumer choices. The solution is one of monitoring and surveillance of those areas where abuse is occurring. This is not an issue only of Malta and restricting retailers has not worked anywhere. Only professional surveillance has proven effective against this phenomenon, using modern technology and specifically trained enforcement officers. It is a problem of a social nature not commercial and retailers should not be made to suffer because the authorities are incapable of resolving a problem through more efficient surveillance.

GRTU has over the years diligently negotiated with Government for the slow liberalisation of the market without creating unnecessary pressures on retailers and creating a just balance between consumers` right to choose and retailers right to rest and this was difficult enough as it is so hard to please all. This Legal Notice is however a retrograde step. Ill-thought and is based on no solid principle or strategy. It is above all unworkable as in 2011 no one expects the Police with all their work  to spend their time and energy chasing and closing retailers and forcing customers not to buy what they choose to buy from an authorised retailer working within a decent licensing system.

GRTU calls on Government to withdraw this ill-thought and badly planned Legal Notice as it is nothing but an affront to the retailing community who strives against so many odds to serve the community.

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