Internet wine good, shipping bans bad, FTC finds

Internet wine good, shipping bans bad, FTC finds News Wine News
  • Friday 4 July 2003

Buying wine over the internet does not lead to more underage drinking, the US Federal Trade Commission has decided.

The FTC study of wine ordered online found barriers to e-commerce are anticompetitive and are preventing consumers from saving up to 21% off the cost of some wines. State bans on direct shipping hurt internet commerce and limited consumer choices.

Chairman Timothy Muris said there was no evidence that underage drinkers found it any easier to buy alcohol online rather than in a bricks and mortar shop.

'Evidence shows that adolescents currently can obtain alcohol without going to the trouble and expense of ordering it over the internet,' he said.

In addition, it was found that states that allow direct shipping report few if any problems with underage drinkers. Many require an adult signature in order to accept delivery.

The FTC researched the subject thoroughly before reaching its conclusions. 'We conducted an economic study and talked to officials in many states that deal with the issue on a daily basis. We have great confidence in our findings,' FTC director of policy planning Todd Zywicki said.

David Sloane, president of WineAmerica, an association with more than 700 member wineries, welcomed the report, saying it would have 'an extraordinary impact'.

Craig Wolf, an attorney for Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America thought it was a waste of time, saying that the only people pushing for direct shipping were those looking for rare and expensive wines.

The basic message of the report however was that by banning direct shipping, states were preventing people buying over the internet and saving up to 21% on wines costing more than US$20 per bottle, and 13% on wines costing more than US$13 per bottle.

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