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Finish changes to the Alcohol Act will clarify provisions applicable to retail sales of alcohol

The existing Alcohol Act prohibits cross-border distance sales of alcoholic beverages in Finland, but the compatibility of its provisions with EU law is open to interpretation.

The Finnish government intends to submit a bill amending the Alcohol Act to Parliament.

Cross-border distance sales of alcoholic beverages would be defined in the Alcohol Act in largely the same way that distance selling is defined in Article 36 of Council Directive 2008/118/EC concerning the general arrangements for excise duty and repealing Directive 92/12/EEC.

The Act would clarify that the provisions applicable to retail sales of alcoholic beverages subject to approval and retail monopoly legislation would also apply to imported alcoholic beverages. The Act would stipulate, however, that the wholesale distribution of alcoholic beverages carried out from abroad would not require any licences. On the other hand, since the retail licence for alcoholic beverages may be granted only to an approved sales premises, cross-border distance sales would be prohibited. Distance vendors would not be allowed to import, contrary to the Alcohol Act, distance-sold alcoholic beverages containing more than 2.8 % alcohol by volume.

In addition, a procedure would be laid down through which individuals could still purchase and import all alcoholic beverages for their own use, including by having them transported to Finland by another individual or a trader.The Judgment of the Court in Case C-198/14 Visnapuu and the judgement handed down by the Supreme Court of Finland on the same case KKO 2018:48 have now clarified that the prohibition of cross-border distance sales of alcoholic beverages under the Finnish Alcohol Act is compatible with EU law.

The existing provisions would be clarified on the basis of the considerations presented in the aforementioned judgments. At the same time, it would be ensured that individuals may purchase and import all alcoholic beverages, subject to certain procedures.

Finland has notified the European Union through its TRIS procedure of the intended changes.Members States and interested stakeholders have until 08/10/2018 to submit their contributions.

Source: DG GROWTH, TRIS database

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