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How did the serving, retail sale and marketing of alcoholic beverages change on 1 March 2018?

How did the serving, retail sale and marketing of alcoholic beverages change on 1 March 2018?

15.3.2018 15:02 / News

The new Alcohol Act entered fully into force on 1 March 2018. The purpose of the new Act is deregulation, particularly of the detailed provisions concerning the serving of alcoholic beverages on licensed premises. This online bulletin contains a summary of the key changes to the serving, retail sale and marketing of alcoholic beverages provided for by the new Alcohol Act as of 1 March 2018.

Valvira published a guideline on the serving, retail sale and marketing of alcoholic beverages on its website on 20 February 2018. This guideline was prepared before the issuing of the Government Decree and the Decree of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health based on the Alcohol Act, and the guideline is being duly amended at this time.

Serving of alcoholic beverages on licensed premises 4/2018 (pdf) (in Finnish)

Retail sale of alcoholic beverages 5/2018 (pdf) (in Finnish)

Guideline on alcohol marketing 6/2018 (pdf) (in Finnish)

Some of the new provisions entered into force on 1 January 2018, and their content was discussed in the online bulletin How will the serving, retail sale and marketing of alcoholic beverages change on 1 January 2018 (in Finnish)?

Frequently Asked Questions (in Finnish)

Contents

Serving on licensed premises
Retail sale
Marketing

Serving on licensed premises

This page describes the key changes to the serving of alcoholic beverages on licensed premises that entered into force on 1 March 2018. The provisions on the serving of alcoholic beverages are described in more detail in the Valvira guideline ‘Serving of alcoholic beverages on licensed premises’.

Åland has the option of adopting its own legislation regarding the serving of alcoholic beverages. Regarding whether the changes described here apply on Åland, inquiries should be made to the authority in charge of licensing on Åland.

Quarterly reports replaced with semiannual reports

Serving licence holders are required to submit reports and information on their sales and other operations as necessary for supervision and risk assessment to the supervisory authorities at regular intervals.

Previously, licence holders were required to report on the serving of alcoholic beverages on a quarterly basis for each licence. The new Decree of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health specifies that reports shall now be submitted semiannually.

The next report, for the first half of 2018, is due in summer 2018. In other words, no quarterly report is required for the first quarter of 2018.

Serving licence holders shall report to the licensing authority semiannually the revenue from their sale of alcoholic beverages and the number of their personnel, and also the volume of and revenue from their retail sale of alcoholic beverages if they sell alcoholic beverages for consumption off their premises.

Also, serving licence holders shall report to the licensing authority semiannually the volume and cost of alcoholic beverages acquired from a retail sale licence holder for the purpose of serving them on licensed premises.

Changes to current serving licences

The division of serving licences into A, B and C licences was discontinued as of 1 March 2018. What this means is that previously granted permits for the sale of alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of no more than 22% or of fermented alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of no more than 4.7% (the B and C licences, respectively) were automatically converted to allow the serving of all alcoholic beverages as of 1 March 2018.

This was implemented in practice by issuing new serving licence numbers to the holders of B and C licences. The beginning of the existing eight-digit licence numbers was changed. As of 1 March 2018, the first two digits of an indefinitely valid serving licence number are 01, and the first two digits of a fixed-term serving licence are 05. These replace the first two digits of currently valid licence numbers as of 1 March 2018.

The Regional State Administrative Agencies informed licence holders of these changes before the new Act entered into force.

The new licence numbers have had to be used for purchases of alcoholic beverages and for reporting as of 1 March 2018. Licence holders are not required to undertake any other measures with regard to the changed licence numbers.

Currently valid serving licences remain unchanged in all other respects. The terms and conditions of any given licence also remain unchanged, unless the licence holder applies to the Regional State Administrative Agency for an amendment.

Retail sale of alcoholic beverages on licensed premises

A licence for retail sale of alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of no more than 5.5% on licensed premises indoors may be applied for.

‘Retail sale of alcoholic beverages’ is defined as the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption off the premises or otherwise beyond the supervision of the seller. In the retail sale of alcoholic beverages, the products may only be given to customers at an approved retail point of sale. Alcoholic beverages sold through retail sale must not be consumed on the licensed premises where they were sold.

Retail sale of alcoholic beverages is only allowed if they are in pre-packaged and sealed containers. Packaging of alcoholic beverages, e.g. bottling, requires a licence for manufacturing alcoholic beverages, and such packaging must only take place in an approved production facility.

Under a retail sale licence, alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of more than 2.8% may only be sold between 09.00 and 21.00.

A retail sale licence may not be granted in connection with a fixed-term serving licence or in connection with a previously approved serving area unless it is for an occasion whose purpose is for several producers of alcoholic beverages to present their products to consumers. Such occasions include beer fairs, etc.

The licensing authority may impose conditions on the cashier and sales arrangements for retail sale if alcoholic beverages are also served on the same premises.

The retail sale of alcoholic beverages on licensed premises is also subject to other provisions concerning the retail sale of alcoholic beverages, described in detail in the Valvira guideline ‘Retail sale of alcoholic beverages’.

Serving at private and public events

The new Alcohol Act contains no provision for a temporary serving licence. For events of a fixed duration such as festivals, a fixed-term serving licence may be applied for. A simple notification is sufficient for serving alcoholic beverages at private events, provided that the owner or occupier of the venue has approved that the venue will be used for serving alcoholic beverages.

An event venue, conference room, hospitality suite or similar premises or area may be approved as licensed premises by application of the owner or occupier of the premises or area. An operator with a previously granted serving licence may serve alcoholic beverages in a serving area thus approved. Such a notification of the serving of alcoholic beverages must be submitted to the licensing authority no later than three days before the beginning of the event. If the serving is connected to travel services, the licence holder may notify the authority of events during which alcoholic beverages are to be served, including their itineraries, for no more than one year at a time.

A serving licence may be granted to an applicant who does not have licensed premises if the applicant’s intent is to serve alcoholic beverages in a serving area approved through the notification procedure or when serving private parties on an excursion in connection with travel services.

Serving hours and their extension

Serving alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of more than 2.8% is permitted from 09.00 to 01.30, unless the licensing authority has limited the serving hours. Alcoholic beverages served may be consumed up to one hour after the end of serving hours. The serving venue does not need to be closed when that time has elapsed, but after that the consuming of alcoholic beverages is not permitted.

On the night before Independence Day, New Year’s Day, May Day and Midsummer’s Day, serving hours may be extended to 03.00.

At an indoor venue, serving hours may be extended from 01.30 to 04.00 by notifying the Regional State Administrative Agency. This notification must be submitted to the Agency no later than three weeks before the extended serving hours are introduced.

A licence from the Regional State Administrative Agency is required for continuing the serving of alcoholic beverages in an outdoor venue until 04.00 or for beginning such serving with the breakfast service at an accommodation establishment in the morning, though in any case no earlier than 07.00. Serving hours cannot be extended beyond 01.30 in a shared serving area.

If serving is extended beyond 01.30 on licensed premises, the licence holder must appoint one security officer per each 100 customers or part thereof to oversee order and safety on the premises and in their immediate vicinity from 01.30 until the customers have stopped consuming alcoholic beverages, unless otherwise specified by the Regional State Administrative Agency.

A local authority has the right to prohibit extended serving hours or to restrict their use in a specific area in the municipality if the safety of local residents so requires. Such a prohibition may apply to all days of the week or specific days of the week, and it may be valid indefinitely or for a fixed period. The decision may enter into force no earlier than six months after acquiring legal force.

After the complete entry into force of the new Alcohol Act on 1 March 2018, licences valid at that time including an extension of serving hours to 02.30 or 03.30 will be subject to the provisions that were valid when the licences were granted, unless the licence holder submits an extended serving hours notification.

Changes concerning serving areas

With the reform of the Alcohol Act, shared serving areas may now be established if one of the licence applicants assumes responsibility for supervising the area. A shared serving area licence may be applied for at the Regional State Administrative Agency. Serving hours may not be extended beyond 01.30 in a shared serving area. Shared serving areas are relevant for instance for food court service concepts.

A public auditorium may be approved as a serving area if access is limited to persons aged 18 or more. The Regional State Administrative Agency may approve a public auditorium or part thereof as a serving area and limit the validity of the licence to such times or events when access to the area in question is limited to persons aged 18 or more.

In approving a serving area, the Agency may allow customers to transport alcoholic beverages from one serving area to another within the licensed premises as approved in the licence holder’s self-monitoring plan. Approval of the licensing authority for customers transporting alcoholic beverages may also be applied for in connection with an existing serving licence.

In the future, it is possible for other operators, e.g. food sellers, to operate in the serving area in addition to the licence holder.

Personnel on licenced premises and requirements for them

The licence holder must be represented on the licensed premises by a responsible manager appointed by the licence holder or other person assigned to this duty by the licence holder if the premises are open to the public. The responsible manager or other designated person must be aged 18 or more.

A person who is not yet 18 may not be a responsible manager or other designated person and may not sell or serve alcoholic beverages. A person who is 16 or older but not yet 18 may serve alcoholic beverages under the immediate supervision of the responsible manager or other designated person.

The licence holder must ensure that the responsible manager or other designated person has a certificate of alcohol proficiency consistent with the model approved by the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira). Unlike in the past, specific work experience or training in the hotel, restaurant and catering sector is not required for the responsible manager or designated person.

An alcohol proficiency certificate (‘serving pass’) is issued by educational institutions providing training in the restaurant and catering sector pursuant to a Government licence or an authorisation from the Ministry of Education. Such a certificate may be issued to a person who has passed a test evaluating knowledge of the Alcohol Act and how it is supervised, or who has completed training including that knowledge, or who has completed a qualification including that knowledge.

Persons who were qualified as responsible managers of licensed premises pursuant to section 21b of the old Alcohol Act (1143/1994) at the time when the new Alcohol Act entered into force on 1 March 2018 shall be deemed to fulfil the qualification requirements specified for the alcohol proficiency certificate in the new Act. Also, an alcohol proficiency certificate issued while the old Alcohol Act was in force shall be considered sufficient proof of knowledge of the Alcohol Act.

Persons who sell alcoholic beverages or who participate in the supervision of the retail sale or serving of alcoholic beverages must not be under the influence of alcohol or any other intoxicating substance when performing their job duties.

Serving on credit and forms of payment

There is no provision in the new Alcohol Act prohibiting serving alcoholic beverages on credit. However, in certain situations the serving of alcoholic beverages on credit for instance to vulnerable consumer groups may be prohibited as inappropriate.

Because the overall provision prohibiting the serving of alcoholic beverages on credit has been removed, it is now easier to pay for alcoholic beverages for instance with various mobile applications. However, what has not changed is that the sale of alcoholic beverages must be undertaken by and on behalf of the licence holder.

The self-monitoring plan for the serving of alcoholic beverages must indicate the maximum amount of credit determined by the licence holder and procedures for operating and overseeing sales on credit if alcoholic beverages are sold to consumers on credit using means other than commonly used payment cards or payment applications processed by credit institutions, or in connection with accommodation.

Alcohol servings

The new Alcohol Act does not specify a maximum number of servings of alcohol that may be served at one time.

Alcoholic beverages may be sold for immediate consumption only in opened packages or poured into a glass or other vessel.

If alcoholic beverages are sold as servings, basic servings must be available to consumers. A basic serving is 4 cl for spirits, 8 cl for mild alcoholic beverages containing more than 15% by volume of ethyl alcohol, 12 cl for mild alcoholic beverages containing more than 8% but less than 15% by volume of alcohol, and 33 cl for other mild alcoholic beverages.

The self-monitoring plan for the serving of alcoholic beverages must indicate the maximum serving specified by the licence holder to be sold to any one customer at one time, if that maximum serving is larger than four times the basic serving as listed above.

When serving alcoholic beverages to a passenger as referred to in the Act on Accommodation and Food Service Activities in an accommodation room or to a private party in a conference room or similar space operated by the licence holder, unopened packages may also be served if the amount of alcoholic beverages available has been limited according to the number of customers and the requirements for the supervision of serving alcoholic beverages. Limiting the amount of alcoholic beverages available may be provided for in more detail by Government Decree.

Self-monitoring of the serving of alcoholic beverages

One of the new requirements for a serving licence is a self-monitoring plan. Current licence holders must also draw up a written plan ensuring the legality of their operations (self-monitoring plan); they must comply with that plan and keep a record of compliance. The plan must also be kept up to date.

The self-monitoring plan must describe the risks of the adverse impacts referred to in section 1 of the Alcohol Act, and must indicate how compliance with the law is monitored, how risk management is implemented in critical situations, and how deviations observed will be corrected.

Under the Decree of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health on the supervision of the Alcohol Act, issued on 27 February 2018, the following matters apply to the self-monitoring plan:

The self-monitoring plan referred to in section 56 of the Alcohol Act must include:
1) details of the licence holder and of the premises to which the plan applies;
2) the date when the self-monitoring plan was drawn up and approval by the licence holder;
3) details of the persons designated by the licence holder as responsible for notifications concerning the changes
referred to in section 11 of the Alcohol Act, for management of the notifications and information referred to in section 62(4) of the Alcohol Act and for submitting them to the licensing authorities, and for the general implementation of and compliance with the self-monitoring plan;
4) a report on how the competence required of personnel in section 57 of the Alcohol Act is ensured and how record-keeping on training and skills has been organised;
5) a report on how the licence holder and the person responsible for implementing the self-monitoring plan supervise compliance with the self-monitoring plan and with instructions issued to personnel.

The licence holder must also submit a plan of action in case of critical situations or remarks made by the authorities and a scheme for the annual review of the self-monitoring plan and of keeping the self-monitoring plan up to date. If the self-monitoring plan is amended, it must be amended in such a way that it can be later established when the amendments were made.

The licence or approval of the self-monitoring plan and the premises as referred to in the Alcohol Act
must be made available to the personnel implementing it and to the supervisory authorities.

The self-monitoring plan for serving alcoholic beverages must contain:
1) a description of how the alcoholic beverages are stored and of the storage facilities;
2) a description of the business idea of the licensed premises and, if necessary, of the supervision focus areas and risks related to the premises and their location;
3) a description of the job duties of the responsible manager or other designated person appointed by the licence holder and a personnel plan detailing the number of employees and their duties with reference to oversight regarding the prohibitions and obligations specified in sections 35–38 of the Alcohol Act and to security enforcement in the serving area during serving hours;
4) a description of how retail sales are arranged and how the cashier and sales processes are implemented,
if retail sale of alcoholic beverages is undertaken on the licensed premises.

The self-monitoring plan for serving alcoholic beverages must also indicate:
1) the maximum amount of credit determined by the licence holder and procedures for operating and overseeing sales on credit if alcoholic beverages are sold to consumers on credit using means other than commonly used payment cards or payment applications processed by credit institutions, or in connection with accommodation;
2) the maximum serving specified by the licence holder to be sold to any one customer at one time, if that maximum serving is larger than four times the basic serving referred to in section 41(3) of the Alcohol Act;
3) a description of the monitoring of customer numbers as referred to in section 45(1) of the Alcohol Act, of how security enforcement is arranged and what duties are assigned to security officers in case the serving hours are extended.

Guidelines for self-monitoring of the serving of alcoholic beverages and for the self-monitoring plan are currently being prepared.

Retail sale

Regulation of the retail sale of alcoholic beverages is described in detail in the Valvira guideline ‘Retail sale of alcoholic beverages’.

Self-monitoring of retail sale

One of the requirements for being granted a retail sale licence is to have a self-monitoring plan. Current licence holders must also draw up a written plan ensuring the legality of their operations (self-monitoring plan); they must comply with that plan and keep a record of compliance. The plan must also be kept up to date.

The self-monitoring plan must describe the risks of the adverse impacts referred to in section 1 of the Alcohol Act, and must indicate how compliance with the law is monitored, how risk management is implemented in critical situations, and how deviations observed will be corrected.

Under the Decree of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health on the supervision of the Alcohol Act, issued on 27 February 2018, the following matters apply to the self-monitoring plan:

The self-monitoring plan referred to in section 56 of the Alcohol Act must include:
1) details of the licence holder and of the premises to which the plan applies;
2) the date when the self-monitoring plan was drawn up and approval by the licence holder;
3) details of the persons designated by the licence holder as responsible for notifications concerning the changes referred to in section 11 of the Alcohol Act, for management of the notifications and information referred to in section 62(4) of the Alcohol Act and for submitting them to the licensing authorities, and for the general implementation of and compliance with the self-monitoring plan;
4) a report on how the competence required of personnel in section 57 of the Alcohol Act is ensured and how record-keeping on training and skills has been organised;
5) a report on how the licence holder and the person responsible for implementing the self-monitoring plan supervise compliance with the self-monitoring plan and with instructions issued to personnel.

The licence holder must also present a plan of action in case of critical situations or observations made by the authorities and a scheme for the annual review of the implementation of the self-monitoring plan and of keeping the self-monitoring plan up to date. If the self-monitoring plan is amended, it must be amended in such a way that it can be later established when the amendments were made.

The licence or approval of the self-monitoring plan and the premises as referred to in the Alcohol Act must be made available to the personnel implementing it and to the supervisory authorities. The self-monitoring plan for the retail sale of alcoholic beverages must contain:
1) a description of how the alcoholic beverages are stored and of the storage facilities;
2) a description of the business idea of the retail sale and, if necessary, the supervision focus areas and risks related to the operations and to the location of the point of sale;
3) a description of how the alcoholic beverages are situated at the point of sale, if they are not placed contiguously on shelves or in a shop section reserved for alcoholic beverages only;
4) a description of how retail sales are arranged and how the cashier and sales processes are implemented,
5) a description of the duties of the responsible manager or other designated person appointed by the licence holder, and a personnel plan detailing the number of employees and their duties with reference to oversight regarding compliance with the prohibitions and obligations specified in sections 35, 37 and 38 of the Alcohol Act at the point of sale;
6) a description of procedures related to compliance with the hours in which alcoholic beverages may be sold;
7) a description of the sales arrangements for alcoholic beverages and their placement on the premises, as referred to in section 55(2) of the Alcohol Act.

Guidelines for self-monitoring of the retail sale of alcoholic beverages and for the self-monitoring plan are currently being prepared.

Products containing alcohol, such as ice cream and chocolate

Solid products containing alcohol with an ethyl alcohol content of no more than 2.8% by weight, such as chocolate sweets or ice cream, may be sold without restriction. The retail sale, serving and marketing of products with a higher alcohol content are subject to the provisions concerning alcoholic beverages in the Alcohol Act, such as age limits.

The retail sale and serving of alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of more than 2.8% by volume are subject to a licence, and Alko has a monopoly on the retail sale of alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of more than 5.5% by volume. In applying the Alcohol Act to solid products, their alcohol content by weight shall be considered in lieu of alcohol content by volume.

Guidelines on the sale and placement of alcohol products that require a retail sale licence are currently being prepared.

Personnel at a retail point of sale

There must be a responsible manager or other designated person aged 18 or more and appointed by the licence holder at each retail point of sale to oversee the legality of the retail sale of alcoholic beverages.

The licence holder must arrange the oversight of sales so that the person aged 18 or over who is responsible for supervising the sale of alcoholic beverages can supervise the sales effectively and intervene if required. A person who is 16 or older but not yet 18 may sell alcoholic beverages only under the immediate supervision of the responsible manager or other designated person.

Persons who sell alcoholic beverages or who participate in the supervision of the retail sale or serving of alcoholic beverages must not be under the influence of alcohol or any other intoxicating substance when performing their job duties.

Licences for retail sale of alcoholic beverages

A retail sale licence for alcoholic beverages may only be granted for indoor points of sale.

A food shop retail sale licence may be granted to an applicant who sells food products on a non-temporary basis, allowing the sale indoors of alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of no more than 5.5%. A retail sale licence may not be granted for temporary sales, for an outdoor point of sale or for a shop intended to sell alcoholic beverages only, unless it is adjacent to a facility where such beverages are produced.

To be granted a retail sale licence, a food shop must have a wide selection of day-to-day food products on sale. Its sales of alcoholic beverages must not significantly exceed the sales of other food products. The reasoning behind this provision is that the sale of alcoholic beverages may form part of the customer service of a grocery shop but may not be its principal business. While the exact percentages of various products out of total sales cannot be anticipated when a licence is applied for, the focus areas of the operator’s business will already be well established at the time of applying. If a shop were to offer a selection of products that consisted almost exclusively of alcoholic beverages, then clearly their sales would far exceed those of other food products.

A retail sale licence may also be granted for an operator with a mobile shop in a vehicle or a boat, providing a food shop service on a regular route for permanent residents or holiday residents. However, a retail sale licence may not be granted for a mobile shop that would visit or tour public events or which would deliver alcoholic beverages along a route or to stops which would be determined on the basis of customer orders.

A retail sale licence for alcoholic beverages may be granted for the retail sale of alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of no more than 5.5% that are also served on the premises, in connection with a serving licence. This is discussed in more detail under changes concerning the serving of alcoholic beverages.

A retail sale licence for alcoholic beverages may be granted for a point of sale in connection with a facility producing alcoholic beverages. In this case, the licence holder is allowed to sell alcoholic beverages produced at that facility and other alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of no more than 5.5% by volume at that point of sale. The possibility of granting a retail sale licence for producers of craft beers in connection with the production facility entered into force on 1 January 2018.

A retail sale licence for alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of no more than 5.5% may also be granted to Alko, if the location of the point of sale would not cause unreasonable inconvenience to the living environment.

Marketing

Regulation on marketing is discussed in detail in the Valvira guideline ‘Alcohol marketing’.

Ban on rebates on the purchase of alcoholic beverages

Under section 51(2) of the Alcohol Act, it is prohibited in the retail sale and the serving of alcoholic beverages to offer and grant rebates on the price of alcoholic beverages, calculated on the basis of purchases of alcoholic beverages, other consumer goods or services.  

‘Rebate’ is here used as a blanket term that includes bonuses and other kinds of benefit such as terms of payment benefits. The purpose of this provision is to prevent all kinds of incentives.

The provision prevents shops and restaurants from promoting the sale of alcoholic beverages through rebates via their loyal customer cards or benefits programmes. It is also prohibited for a benefits programme operating in Finland to grant rebates on the purchase of alcoholic beverages abroad.

Therefore the offering and granting of all bonuses, terms of payment benefits and any other rebates on purchases of alcoholic beverages, whether as a discount given on the price or a bonus accruing through the purchase, was prohibited as of 1 March 2018.

Products containing alcohol

The provisions on the sale and marketing of alcoholic beverages also apply to any products that are wholly or partly solid and have a total alcohol content of more than 2.8% by weight. Alcohol content by weight is considered in lieu of alcohol content by volume in this respect. The sale and serving of such products therefore require a licence. The provisions on age limits and hours of sale also apply to such products.

Further information

Valvira:

Kari Kunnas
tel. 0295 209 610

firstname.lastname@valvira.fi

Regional State Administrative Agencies (AVI):

AVI Southern Finland

Riku-Matti Lehikoinen
tel. 0295 016 155

Samuel Haataja
tel. 0295 016 111

AVI Eastern Finland

Jarmo Ruusu
tel. 0295 016 938

Ulla Kuosmanen
tel. 0295 016 915

AVI Lapland

Esko Lind
tel. 0295 017 369

Heini Sankala
tel. 0295 017 382

AVI Southwestern Finland

Heikki Mäki
tel. 0295 018 094

AVI Western and Inland Finland

Kalle Tervo
tel. 0295 018 598

Johanna Holmäng-Jaskari
tel. 0295 018 809

AVI Northern Finland

Ari Kilponen
tel. 0295 017 571

Sari Korhonen
tel. 0295 017 569

firstname.lastname@avi.fi

 

 

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