DTI Public Consultation on Proposals to Tighten Consumer Protection Against Short Measure re: Draft Beer and Cider

United Kingdom
The Department of Trade and Industry [DTI] has published a consultation document which sets out the Government’s proposals to strengthen consumer protection against being served short measures of draft beer and cider on licensed premises.

This consultation is the result of earlier consultations with those trade and consumer organisations. In the White Paper “Modern Markets: Confident Consumers (Cm 4410, July 1999) the Government gave a commitment to clarify the law in order to strengthen consumer protection against short measures of draft beer and cider. The DTI consultation paper “Fair Measure (July 1999) on modernising the regulation of goods sold by weight or measure invited views on whether beer and cider measures should be defined as 100% liquid or not less than 95% liquid. Most consumer organisations argued that a pint must be 100% liquid on average or not less than 100% liquid. Most trade respondents argued that serving 100% liquid on average would result in increased costs to the great majority of licensees, and that these costs would be passed on to consumers by an increase in the retail price of beer and cider. The trade argued that any change to the legislation should focus on giving statutory backing to the trade’s guidelines, as published in 1993, which recommended that the consumer should be served not less than 95% liquid.

The current consultation paper assesses the pros and cons of each option. It deals with such issues as the benefits to consumer and brewers, the equal competition between low froth draft beers and ciders with frothier draft beers and ciders and bottled beer and cider, but also with re-training and re-equiping of licensed premises, and increased costs to licensees.

The options put forward for consultation are as follows:

  • Option 1: that a pint must be 100% liquid on average is estimated as an annual cost (to licensees) and benefit (for brewers and consumers) of £133 million.
  • Option 2: that the pint must be not less than 100% liquid is estimated to total cost £200 million and
  • Option 3: that the pint must be not less than 95% liquid, is estimated at £38 million per annum. However, in conjunction with this option, there is the proviso that consumers who are served less than 100% liquid may request may request a top-up. This would be an additional cost under this option for retailers who currently do not serve 100% liquid minimum, and this is estimated to cost £95 million (in addition to the £38 million identified above).

The DTI has decided to give statutory backing to Option 3 as already implemented in the trade’s guidelines. The DTI’s main concern in supporting Option 3 is to avoid imposing any disproportionate burden on licensees, particularly small independent pubs. The DTI has also been concerned to avoid any increase in the retail price of draft beer and cider, as this would counter any intended benefit of strengthening consumer protection against short measures. The compromise between Options 1 and 2 and Option 3 that the DTI has decided on in giving statutory backing to the trade’s recommended 95% liquid minimum is to also leave the option to consumers to request top-ups if they are dissatisfied with the quality of draft beer or cider they are served.

The DTI appears to have taken a balanced view and, following this consultation, which ends 1st July 2002, it is intended that the proposal will be implemented by an amendment to Article 2 of the Weights and Measures (Intoxicating Liquor) Order 1988 (SI 1988/2039), to come into force 3 months after Parliament has affirmed the amending Order.

It is clear that Option 3 would result in the most beneficial outcome to both consumers and licensees; however, the further, “top-up provision should be restricted to those instances where the consumer receives less than 100% liquid, and this should be clearly stated.

The consultation may be found on the DTI website at http://www.dti.gov.uk/cacp/ca/consulta.htm

For further information, please contact Jessica Burt by telephone on +44(0)20 7367 3589 or by e-mail at jessica.burt@cms-cmck.com.