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En primeur wine buyers have no right of return, says EU

Consumers who buy wines en primeur do not have an automatic right to cancel their purchase and ask for a refund, say new European Union rules.

Bordeaux’s 2013 vintage laid out for tasters at this year’s en primeur week

The EU’s new Consumer Contracts Regulations, which came into force on 13 June, state that en primeur sales are now exempt from the right of cancellation.

The issue has been a grey area in consumer rights law for several years – albeit never tested in the courts – after the European Commission announced a review of its Distance Selling Regulations in 2007.

Consumers in the EU have a right to a refund on purchases for a set period after goods are delivered to them. That period has been doubled to 14 days under the new rules.

But, en primeur wine has been a contested area of the law, because it involves speculative purchasing. Wines may not be bottled for more than a year after the sale is agreed.

All en primeur sales are now exempt from the rules, providing three conditions are met. Those conditions are that the price has been agreed at the time of sale, that delivery takes place at least 30 days after the sale and that buyers accept the actual value of the wine could change between purchase and delivery. Wine merchants must also inform consumers of the new rules.

The exemption represents a victory for the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, which has campaigned for an exemption for more than a decade.

Some wine merchants told Decanter.com they would continue to give buyers so-called ‘cooling off’ periods following an en primeur sale.

Paul Masters, commercial director of Corney & Barrow, said, ‘We gave customers one month to cancel an en primeur sale and will continue to offer this.’

Vicky Williams, of Berry Bros & Rudd, said, ‘Wines ordered through our en primeur service can only be cancelled within 7 days of placing the order.’

Johnny Goedhuis, of Goedhuis & Co, said, ‘We have always been pretty flexible and treated it as a normal transaction and accepted cancellations. However, no-one ever asked to cancel after receiving their en primeur wines.’

Written by Jim Budd

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