Wine retailer agrees to stop selling alcohol below state's minimum pricing

(WFSB photo)

State officials said a wine retailer who sought to protest state liquor pricing laws by selling alcohol below the minimum price has agreed to stop.

The Department of Consumer Protection said Total Wine and More agreed to stop advertising and selling its products below the minimum price rules set in the Liquor Control Act.

In addition, the business must make a payment of $37,500.

The DCP said the agreement does not affect the lawsuit brought about earlier this month by Total Wine, which challenges the pricing laws.

Until the laws are amended by lawmakers, the DCP said it will continue to "vigorously" enforce them.

“Immediately upon learning that Total Wine and More was advertising and selling products below what is permitted by the state’s minimum price rules, DCP’s Liquor Control Division opened an investigation,” said Commissioner Jonathan Harris. “I am pleased that, through the hard work of many people at DCP, we were able to resolve this issue swiftly, and I appreciate that Total Wine worked with us to come to an agreement.”

In a statement on Thursday, Gov. Dannel Malloy said “I appreciate the work of the Department of Consumer Protection, which has swiftly investigated and enforced current law, as they should. The Department has fulfilled its responsibility. At the same time, my position on these laws has not changed. Connecticut’s minimum bottle pricing law is backwards and illogical. It penalizes our residents by artificially charging them substantially more for a product than what they would pay in surrounding states. No other industry has a protection like this. More competition would allow for lower prices - it's as simple as that. While I continue to stand with consumers, I appreciate the Department's work on this matter. The courts will now have to make a decision.”

Total Wine argued last month that Connecticut is the only state that wholesalers and retailers work together to set the price customers pay for wine and spirits.

It said consumers are paying upwards of 25 percent more for certain beverages in Connecticut than in surrounding states. As a result, customers have been purchasing alcohol in neighboring states.

Opponents of the suit, like the Connecticut Package Stores Association, called the fight a means for companies to dominate the marketplace and eliminate competition.

Total Wine and More has four Connecticut locations.

BevMax, another large beverage company, jumped on the bandwagon and started selling alcohol cheaper too, as a way to compete with Total Wine. The state has opened an investigation with BevMax.

Copyright 2016 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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