Alcohol retailer files lawsuit challenging Connecticut’s minimum pricing laws

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HARTFORD -- National alcohol retailer Total Wine & More has filed a lawsuit in U.S. district court against the state of Connecticut challenging minimum pricing laws. State law says no store can sell below what it paid per bottle.

According to the lawsuit, Connecticut's "antiquated laws and regulations force customers to pay more."

"It’s time for Connecticut to finally enter the 21st century when it comes to the sale of wine and spirits. The loser in the current equation is the consumer," said Edward Cooper, Total Wine & More’s Vice President, Public Affairs.  "The current pricing structure drives them to out-of-state outlets in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Striking down these laws and regulations allow consumers the freedom to pay lower prices for wine and spirits."

The lawsuit alleges that the state's mandatory minimum pricing laws result in prices that could be 25% higher than those in surrounding states. They also allege that the pricing laws set by wholesalers and retailers "constitutes restraint of trade and a violation of the federal Sherman anti-trust act."

Earlier this year, Governor Malloy proposed eliminating the state minimum on alcohol prices, but he couldn't get his proposal to move through the legislature. Local package store owners said eliminating the law would put them out of business and that only big box stores would be able to afford the change.

Malloy said the current practice is unfair to consumers and hurts state revenues.

Connecticut's Department of Consumer Protection was named in the lawsuit. FOX 61 reached out and they have no comment.

The Connecticut Package Stores Association (CPSA) released a statement that reads in part:

The issue of the minimum bottle pricing has been the subject of the last five legislative sessions, initiated by Total Wine or its advocates. The issue to change the bottle price has been resoundingly rejected by legislative leaders and individual legislators. The rejection of the Total Wine position is a primary objection to one company attempting to eliminate stores and dominate the marketplace as a predatory competitor as it has in most other states where it operates.

The legislature has already dealt with the minimum bottle issue. Action was taken to allow the sale of alcohol below minimum bottle price on items selected by package stores and registered with the Department of Liquor Control. This change has already produced prices that are below cost, but keeps the industry vitality in place. It does not just assist a predatory competitor, which intends to eliminate all competition.The rejection of the Total Wine’s position by the legislature was based on several conclusions advanced at public hearings by hundreds of persons, groups and organizations.

Total Wine & More has locations in West Hartford, Manchester, Milford, and Norwalk. They operate 150 stores in 21 states.