Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, May 8, 2015

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If a pint of beer in a pub costs £3, then a half would cost £1.50, right?

Well no, actually. Many pubs charge over half the price of a pint when purchasing a half measure. Is this fair? It was a topic of discussion at the recent CAMRA AGM in Nottingham.

Some felt that it is obvious that you should pay half as much for half the quantity, and to charge more than this is both sharp practice and an encouragement to drink larger measures which is probably a bad thing, especially in Scotland where the drink drive limits have been cut from 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood to 50 milligrams. Others hold that the price you pay for a pint is not just for the drink, and if you buy a half you expect the same effort for the serving staff as if you were buying a pint. A half-pint glass costs just as much to wash, you are occupying a chair and want the same heating and lighting and entertainment, such as the football on TV as those who buy a pint.

The consensus seemed to be that it was OK to pay a little more, for instance to round the price up to a sensible number so the customer was not charged £1.57 for example, but big differences were unacceptable, such as some London pubs quoted which charge 50 or 60p extra for a half. Anyway, if you are that worried it is always possible to check the price list. Except that it isn’t.

I was under the impression that all pubs have to display a price list, but this is no longer the case. The law was changed by the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. This resulted in the repeal of the Price Marking (Food and Drink Services) Order, which specifically covered price lists and their display.

Now there is ‘a general obligation to give sufficient information to customers at the point of sale, so that they are not misled on prices.’

Clearly the best way to do this is to display a price list, but you could argue that if the prices are in line with what would be generally expected in the area, it would be very difficult to bring any kind of action.

On the other hand, if you bought a pint for £4, what would be the reasonable expectation for a half a pint? £2.20 might be OK, but what if it was £2.60? Some might argue (and indeed did in Nottingham) that this is not reasonable.

This is covered by a section of the act detailing ‘misleading omissions’. This is when a trader leaves out important information to mislead you into buying something that you may not have bought if you had been given all the facts.

I can find a case of an oil firm being prosecuted for delivering oil to homes without a quote and then charging higher than expected, but none of a pub being prosecuted.

Maybe the requirement to display a price list should have been spared from the bonfire of red tape.