The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Upholds Law Banning Sales Below Costs Against Challenge from Total Wine

The highest court in Massachusetts has upheld the state law that prevents sales of alcohol below costs.   This case stems from an enforcement action against Massachusetts Fine Wine and Spirits (Total Wine) related to the state definition of cost of liquor.  

The Court stated: “We conclude that the plain language of § 2.04(1) requires that the net cost of liquor or wine sold to a licensed retailer, including any credits applied to that sale from CQDs, be reflected in the invoice for that particular sale, and that it was reasonable for the commission to interpret the regulation in accordance with the regulation’s plain language.”

Total’s arguments against the constitutionality of the law and arbitrary enforcement were rejected by the Massachusetts court.  The court supported the claim that the state alcohol regulatory agency needed the ability to “effectively and uniformly enforce its own regulations in accordance with its legislative mandate” and noted the position of the plaintiff would make enforcement nearly impossible.

The Court overturned a lower court’s decision.  The Supreme Judicial Court is the highest court in Massachusetts.

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