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Finnish alcohol regulation clashes with EU free movement of goods

The European Commission requested from Finnish authorities further information on the regulation of its retail sales system of alcohol below 5.5%.
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Photo: PIxabay.

On 11 February 2021, the European Commission requested that Finnish authorities provide further information on the regulation of retail sales of beverages containing up to 5.5% alcohol by volume. The request is related to the so-called EU Pilot mechanism between the Commission and a Member State.

The request for information is based on complaints received by the Commission. In particular, these complaints concern the principle of free movement of goods in connection with distance selling of alcohol online.

According to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Finnish authorities will respond to the Commission’s request by 14 April 2021.

Among other things, the Commission has requested Finland to explain whether retail sale licenses are available to retailers in other Member States wishing to conduct distance sales of alcoholic beverages containing up to 5.5% alcohol by volume. In addition, the Commission has asked Finland to provide clarification on the Finnish system of retail sales of alcohol.

Cross-border sales

The Commission also requests information about Finland’s plans to implement the proposals made by a working group of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in April 2018 to develop the regulation of cross-border sales of alcoholic beverages.

According to the working group’s proposal, both domestic and foreign operators could sell alcoholic beverages online as long as the alcohol content by volume did not exceed 5.5%. Such alcoholic beverages would be distributed from retail premises in Finland, not by post or a transport operator.

The Commission also requests further information on the processing of tenders submitted to Alko.

The European Commission monitors the Member States’ compliance with EU law. The request for information received by Finland is part of the informal EU Pilot mechanism between the Commission and a Member State. The mechanism enables the Commission to obtain information from a Member State on national provisions and their practical application. 

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