Minimum pricing for cigarettes is illegal, according to the ECJ

Minimum pricing for cigarettes is illegal, according to the ECJ

Scottish plans to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol have been dealt a blow by a ruling from the European Court of Justice.

Minimum pricing legislation in France, Austria and Ireland concerning cigarettes infringes European law, the court ruled yesterday (4 March).

“According to the (European) Commission [which had brought infringement actions before the court], the legislation of those three Member States ... undermines the freedom of manufacturers and importers to determine the maximum retail selling prices of their products and, correspondingly, free competition,” the court said. “That legislation is therefore contrary to the directive (which lays down rules on excise duty affecting the consumption of those products).”

Responding to the ruling, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), which has consistently opposed Scotland's ruling Scottish National Party's proposals on minimum pricing for alcohol, called on the Scottish government to withdraw its minimum pricing proposal from the Alcohol Bill.

“It (the Scottish Government) cannot introduce a trade barrier in breach of the UK’s European obligations by imposing minimum pricing on alcohol in Scotland,” said the organisation's chief executive, Gavin Hewitt.

“We would urge the Scottish Government to withdraw minimum pricing from the Alcohol Bill and hope that a consensus can now be reached on tackling loss leading sales of alcohol.”

To read the official announcement from the European Court of Justice, click here.