EU rules against cheap wine imports

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  • Thursday 23 November 2006

The European Court of Justice has dashed hopes of UK consumers buying cut-price wine from other European countries.

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The ECJ was expected to overturn current legislation and rule that goods bought in other EU states may only be taxed in their country of origin.

The ruling would have enabled UK consumers to purchase wine from France via the internet at French prices and have it shipped over without paying duty. Currently, a bottle of wine sent to Britain from France is taxed at £1.29. With French tax on a bottle set at under 2p, the potential saving for consumers would have been huge.

Instead, the law remains unchanged.

‘The products in question must be transported personally by the private individual who purchased them,’ said the ruling.

The news was welcomed by the UK Treasury, drinks trade and ferry operators.

The ruling secures the future of ‘booze cruise’ trips to continent to buy wine, beer and cigarettes at lower prices. Some ferry operators, who stood to lose swathes of customers had the new ruling gone the other way, had even set up contingency plans.

‘We had an embryonic plan to move into the mail order business,’ P&O ferries’ Chris Laming told decanter.com. ‘But it's business as usual and we’re happy insofar as it [the ruling] hasn’t disrupted services.’

As well as ferry operators, the UK treasury faced losing millions of pounds with drink and tobacco taxation currently worth £15bn a year.

The UK wine trade also breathed a sigh of relief.

‘The Wine and Spirit Trade Association has welcomed today's decision,’ said Jeremy Beadles, head of the Wine and Spirits Trade Association. ‘Any other outcome could potentially have put UK businesses at a serious disadvantage compared to their European counterparts.’

See also:

EU ruling will slash drinkers' tax by billions

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