April 07, 2014
Massachusetts wine consumers will soon have equal access to Napa Cabs, Oregon Pinot Noirs, and New York Rieslings, as the commonwealth finally joins the ranks of direct shipping states with the passage of House Bill 294. Effective January 1, 2015, the bill will allow the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission to issue licenses allowing out-of-state and in-state wineries to ship a limited amount of wine, by common carrier, directly to Massachusetts residents.
Prior to the passage of HB 294, out of state wineries were effectively shut out by the Massachusetts direct shipping law, which purported to allow direct shipping, but included so many restrictions and limitations that it was unworkable. Despite a successful court challenge to the existing law, in which the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Massachusetts shipping law was discriminatory, the legislators have been unable until now to pass replacement legislation. In 2013, House Representative Theodore Speliotis introduced HB 294, and with the help of fellow lawmakers and a celebrity endorsement from New England Patriots quarterback-turned-Washington state vintner Drew Bledsoe, the measure was approved and has now been signed by the governor July 11th 2014. Under the new law, all U.S. wineries with a federal basic permit and home state winery license may obtain a license to ship up to 24 cases of wine per year to a Massachusetts resident 21 years of age or older. Like most direct shipper licenses, the Massachusetts license will also require the winery to submit a yearly report to the Commission and Department of Revenue detailing the total gallons of wine shipped, as well as require taxes be paid on all products shipped. The initial license fee will be $300.00 per winery, with a $150 annual renewal fee.
Common carriers delivering in the state are required to have a fleet permit and each vehicle transporting alcohol under the permit must have a certified copy of it in the vehicle, at a cost of $50 per certified copy.
The new law has drawn some criticism because it permits shipments only from U.S. wineries, effectively prohibiting direct shipment of imported wines to Massachusetts consumers. The Massachusetts law is not alone in this restriction; importers and retailers are excluded by the direct shipping laws of some other states, as well. But the law nonetheless represents another step forward in direct to consumer wine sales. Only eight states continue to have a complete ban on winery shipments direct to consumer. If you are interested in learning more about direct shipping law in Massachusetts or elsewhere, contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.
Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·
March 05, 2014
Almost three years ago now, as reported on Imbiblog here, the TTB accepted its largest set of offers in compromise ever, for trade practices violations. Some of the biggest names in the business agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to the TTB even though they denied violating any laws or regulations. The allegations of trade practice violations came from participation by the companies in the 2008-2009 Harrah’s Nationwide Beverage Program. Unlike notable earlier trade practice investigations by the TTB, where there was state participation and a parallel investigation, there were no allegations made against retailers involved in the program, and no fines or penalties assessed against retailers (see for example the 2004-2009 joint investigation by Illinois and TTB into payments made by suppliers and wholesalers to Sam’s Wine & Spirits, Inc., then the largest wine retailer in the country, and its captive third party marketing organization Skyline Marketing, Inc.). The 2011 settlement by TTB was acknowledged to result from a retailer-initiated promotional program. Given that the TTB has extremely limited jurisdiction over alcohol retailers, however, the agency was unable to enforce any allegations against Harrah’s for the promotion. Had the State of Nevada participated in the investigation, it is more likely that charges could have been brought.
Now, the Office of the Attorney-General in Nevada has come out with an open letter to retailers, wholesalers and suppliers of liquor in Nevada in what appears to signal an intention to focus more attention on trade practice issues in the State. The advice contained in the letter is phrased as a “reminder” to the industry of prohibited and restricted activities. It covers the following issues:
- No loans from wholesalers to retailers of money or other thing of value, no investments by a wholesaler in a retailer, no complimentary furnishing of premises or equipment, and no joint operation of a retail business;
- Adherence to strict payment terms, with no preference accorded by wholesalers to certain retailers, and with a cessation of sales and monthly service charges in case of delinquency;
- No substitution of brands without consent, and no delivery of unwanted or unnecessary inventory;
- No required boycotts of other suppliers;
- No price fixing down the supply chain by suppliers imposing resale prices on wholesalers, and no profit splitting with the supplier getting a specified portion of the wholesaler’s profit margin;
- No excessive marketing contributions being required by suppliers of their wholesalers, for promotions outside the wholesaler’s market or beyond the terms agreed by the parties;
- Strict adherence to the quoted price from suppliers to wholesalers;
- No discrimination by suppliers among wholesalers (note that Nevada has a franchise law meaning that this refers to discrimination between wholesalers in different parts of the state as only one wholesaler can be appointed in any given market); and,
- No deceptive trade practices.
The letter refers to concerns with illegal terms or incentives by industry members looking for a competitive edge in the market. It notes that the Attorney General has jurisdiction over these issues and is required by law to take appropriate legal action to enforce the provisions of law setting forth the restrictions above. The Attorney General’s office recognizes in the letter its duty to investigate and prosecute deceptive trade practices in Nevada. Should the type of circumstances in the TTB’s investigation in 2011 arise again, it will be very interesting to see what action is taken by the state in light of this clear signal that it is unlikely to sit by if unlawful trade practices occur in Nevada.
If you have any questions about trade practice issues, in Nevada or elsewhere, contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.
Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2014 · All Rights Reserved ·
May 24, 2012
As the U.S. government looks for ways to save the U.S. Postal Service, a recent bill passed the senate that includes provisions allowing the USPS to ship wine, beer, and spirits. Private carriers have been shipping wine for decades, but the USPS has been banned from doing so for over one hundred years. 18 U.S.C. § 1716(f), the 1909 law that prohibits the USPS from shipping “all spirituous, vinous, malted, fermented or other intoxicating liquors of any kind” remains on the books. That law pre-dates prohibition by ten years, and has never been repealed. That would change if Senate Bill 1789 becomes law. The bill was passed in the senate on April 25, 2012, and Section 405 provides that wine, beer, and distilled spirits are considered “mailable” by the USPS as long as a) it is consistent with the laws of the states where the shipment is initiated and where delivery is to be made, b) the addressee is at least 21 years of age, and c) the addressee provides a signature and a valid government-issued photo identification upon delivery.
In order to become law, Senate Bill 1789 still needs to pass through the House of Representatives. The bill was designed to address the moratorium on post office closures that expired on May 15, 2012, which had already been delayed from an original deadline of last December. Since no law was passed by the May 15 deadline, the USPS is moving forward with a modified plan for post office closures. 48 post offices are currently scheduled to close in August, 2012, 92 in 2013, and another 89 in 2014. The impending August closures put pressure on the House to pass a bill as soon as possible if they are going to save those post offices. We’ll keep you posted on their progress and whether permitting the USPS to ship alcohol remains a part of the proposed legislation.
January 11, 2012
Late Monday night, on the last day of New Jersey’s legislative session, the state Assembly voted 51-18-4 in favor of Bill A-4336, New Jersey’s wine direct shipping bill. The companion bill, S-3172, passed the New Jersey Senate last month, and now only the governor’s approval stands in the way of New Jersey becoming the 39th state to allow some form of direct shipping. Under the bill, New Jersey Farm Wineries, New Jersey Plenary Wineries that produce 250,000 gallons or less of wine a year, and out-of-state wineries that produce 250,000 gallons of wine or less each year and that obtain an out-of-state shipping license will be able to ship up to 12 cases of wine per year to any New Jersey consumer. If the bill is signed by New Jersey Governor Christie as expected, the law will go into effect in May, 2012. To see our earlier posts on this topic, check here and here.
Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved ·
December 19, 2011
Updating our post of late last week, the New Jersey Senate last Thursday voted 23 to 13 in favor of Bill S-3172, permitting wineries to ship directly to New Jersey consumers. Now that it has passed the Senate, the New Jersey Assembly has to vote on the bill by January 9, 2012, the last day of the legislative session. Under the bill, New Jersey Farm Wineries, New Jersey Plenary Wineries that produce 250,000 gallons or less of wine a year, and out-of-state wineries that produce 250,000 gallons of wine or less each year and that obtain an out-of-state shipping license would be able to ship up to 12 cases of wine per year to any New Jersey consumer. If passed, New Jersey would become the 39th state to allow direct shipping. Check back in early 2012 for an update!
Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2011 · All Rights Reserved ·
October 19, 2011
Beginning January 1, 2012, a new license will be available for direct-to-consumer wine sales. The new license is the result of approval of Assembly Bill No. 623, which revises California’s Business and Professions code to add Section 23393.5 authorizing the license. Sales may only be made to consumers. All sales must occur through direct mail, telephone or Internet; they may not be conducted from a location that is open to the public. The licensee must take possession and title to all wine sold. All wine must be delivered to the consumer from the licensee’s premises or a licensed public warehouse. The application and annual fee are the same as those applicable to a Type 20 off-sale beer and wine license. The key differences between the new limited off-sale retail license and a type 20 license are that the type 20 requires a brick and mortar store that is open to the public and a type 20 license also allows the sale of beer for consumption away from the licensed premises. If you would like more information about the license, please feel free to contact any of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.
June 07, 2011
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) issued a press release on Friday, June 3rd advising that it has entered into agreements with FedEx and UPS to halt the shipment of wine by out of state retailers to Texas consumers.
The direct shipping situation in Texas has been in a state of flux for years following the seminal Granholm v. Heald decision, which opened up many states to direct shipment of wine by wineries in 2005. Following Granholm, plaintiffs in a number of states have filed lawsuits to determine the scope of the court’s ruling, particularly whether it applied to retailers or only wineries.
Lawsuits filed in Texas alleged that Texas laws preventing direct to consumer sales by out of state retailers violated the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution because retailers within Texas were permitted to make such shipments. The cases were decided last year on appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that Texas was not required to allow out of state retailers to ship wine to Texas consumers, but could continue to permit in-state retailers to do so.
Following the Court of Appeals’ ruling, the TABC began notifying retailers that shipments to consumers in Texas were not legal. More recently, the TABC has provided FedEx and UPS with the names of out of state retailers who have recently shipped wine to Texas consumers (TABC has not said how it came to identify such retailers.) FedEx and UPS in turn have agreed to notify the listed retailers that such shipments violate the retailers’ shipping agreements with the companies and may lead the shippers to refuse to ship packages for the involved retailers. For its part, TABC says it will contact the retailers directly and may also contact the alcoholic beverage control agencies in the retailers’ home states in cases where the retailers fail to comply with the TABC’s requests.
Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2010-2011 · All Rights Reserved ·
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