US: Retailers square up to Illinois with wine shipment lawsuit
The State of Illinois faces the prospect of legal action if legislation passes prohibiting Illinois consumers from purchasing wine from out-of-state wine retailers.
The trade body Specialty Wine Retailers Association said it believes that a lawsuit against the State of Illinois and the Illinois Liquor Control Commission is both "inevitable and proper" if the law passes.
The SWRA believes that legislation currently moving through the Illinois Assembly would unconstitutionally allow in-state wine merchants to ship wine to Illinois residents while excluding out-of-state wine merchants from doing the same.
The State of Illinois has allowed consumers to purchase wine from out-of-state wine merchants since 1992.
The SWRA said it believes that the proposed legislation violates the spirit and intent of a 2005 Supreme Court decision that ruled laws on wine shipping must treat in-state and out-of-state shippers equally.
The Court ruling thus far has been taken primarily to refer to out-of-state wineries, rather than retailers, shipping directly to consumers. However, in early 2006 the SWRA was set up to fight the corner of the out-of-state retailer on this issue too.
"There is no legal, state or consumer interest that is protected by stripping consumers of their long-held right to purchase wine from out-of-state retailers," said SWRA executive director Tom Wark. "Lessoning consumer choice and inviting an inevitable lawsuit seems a poor trade-off for the chance to pass protectionist legislation on behalf of the State's alcohol distribution industry. Consumers across the state have been telling their legislators this for the better part of a month."
The SWRA statement concluded: "The pending legislation could be easily amended by including language that allows out-of-state wine merchants to apply for the proposed wine shipping permit and by assuring that retailer permit holders are required to remit all appropriate taxes and submit themselves to Illinois legal jurisdiction. SWRA has said on a number of occasions it is more than happy to agree to these conditions."
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