The comprehensive reform of the Alcohol Act was approved by Parliament on 19 December 2017. After the reform entered into force, ordinary retail stores could sell all kinds of alcoholic beverages that contained up to 5.5% alcohol by volume. The reform also meant deregulation of restaurants’ opening hours. In 2017, the FCCA also gave a statement (in Finnish) on the matter to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and twice to Parliament.
In its statements, the FCCA supported the main objectives and changes of the reform as regards increasing the weight of business policy goals and reducing regulation with respect to restaurants and stores. A considerable proportion of the alcohol consumed is already sold through restaurants and stores. The FCCA considered the proposed changes to have a positive impact on competition in both the restaurant and retail sectors.
The FCCA commented that there is still a relatively heavy regulatory burden on the requirements for obtaining a retail licence for alcoholic beverages, the general requirements imposed on licence applicants, and the regulations concerning the occasional and other sales of alcoholic beverages, for example. These are significant especially for new types of products, such as farm wines and craft beers, new operators entering the market and event organisers.
In its statements, the FCCA recognised the social welfare and health policy objectives that have been used to justify the restrictions imposed by alcohol legislation. Some of these objectives approach consumer protection aspects. From this perspective, the FCCA noted that the effects of the comprehensive reform on alcohol use by minors and alcohol advertising in particular should be monitored.
The FCCA emphasised the need to target supervision conducted by the authorities in situations that involve clearly identified risks or categorical prohibitions, such as serving or selling to minors or intoxicated persons. In other regards, the emphasis should be on more extensive self-monitoring, which should be combined with a greater threat of partial or full cancellation of the licence in the event of negligence.