NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Let the Wine Flow

July 17, 2003

The Federal Trade Commission is trying to identify old state laws which present barriers to Internet commerce. These range from pharmaceutical sales to legal services -- with FTC economists now examining online wine sales.

  • Twenty-six states prohibit almost all direct shipping of out-of-state wines -- including seven that make direct sales a felony.
  • Even states that permit direct shipping usually impose restrictions which discourage the trucking industry from delivering to customers in other states.
  • The justification for the state laws is often to keep wine out of the hands of children.

For example, some states require would-be wine buyers to purchase a "connoisseurs' permit" before they can buy wine from out of state. These and other restraints of trade are advanced in the name of consumer protection, claims Virginia Prostrel, but really are the work of alcohol retailers and wholesalers -- who don't want to have to deal with out-of-state competition.

Source: Virginia Prostrel, "Laws That Limit Online Shoppers," New York Times, July 17, 2003.


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