Countdown facing licence suspension

Supermarkets have been put ''on notice'' after Countdown's central Dunedin store was twice found to be offering illegally discounted alcohol as part of a nationwide promotion.

The warning came from Dunedin City Council licensing inspector Tony Mole following a hearing of the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority in Dunedin yesterday.

As a result, Dunedin's Countdown central city store faced a possible 72-hour suspension of its off-licence after offering the discounts on two occasions this year.

In the first, on February 23, discounts of up to 38% were available when ''Onecard'' loyalty deals were combined with an extra discount offered to people buying more than six bottles of wine, Mr Mole said.

The supermarket was contacted about the deal, as it was an offence under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 to promote or advertise alcohol discounts of more than 25%.

Despite that, between May 18 and 24, the supermarket offered further discounts of up to 27%, Mr Mole said.

''It was disappointing to see a repeat of an unlawful promotion occur just two months after the company was advised of the first instance,'' he said in submissions yesterday.

General Distributors Ltd, which holds off-licences for 175 supermarkets, accepted the facts and the imposition of a 72-hour licence suspension for Countdown's central Dunedin store, Mr Mole said.

The Dunedin supermarket's offer was part of a nationwide advertising promotion, meaning all 175 supermarkets could face the same suspension, he said.

However, Mr Mole was not in favour of that, saying imposition of a ''significant penalty'' on Countdown's central Dunedin store would create case law and put ''the rest of the industry on notice''.

A decision was reserved at the end of yesterday's hearing, but was expected within 30 days.

A Countdown spokesman last night declined to comment ahead of the ruling.

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