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Southern Glazer’s Joins With Total Wine In Connecticut Minimum Pricing Case

January 9, 2020

Last month, Total Wine & More appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in its battle against minimum pricing rules in Connecticut. That appeal has now gained a prominent new backer, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, which has filed an amicus brief in support of Total Wine’s bid to bring the matter before the nation’s highest court.

Southern Glazer’s states that the case is of significant interest and worthy of the court’s attention because, in its view, “alcoholic beverage post-and-hold laws suppress competition. The question is ripe and urgently warrants this court’s review, especially given the prevalence of post-and-hold laws nationwide.”

In Connecticut, drinks wholesalers must post their prices in advance so that competing wholesalers can match them, hold those prices for a month, and may not offer volume discounts to retailers. This provision prevents larger businesses, like Total Wine & More, from using their size and scale to the advantage of the company and consumers, according to the retailer.

Connecticut’s smaller retailers counter that because they can’t take advantage of such volume discounts they could effectively be pushed out of the market if Total’s bid were to succeed, resulting in job losses and reduced tax revenue for the state.

Southern says it’s most concerned with the post-and-hold requirement, because it operates in states like New York, Oklahoma, Michigan, and Idaho, which have enacted similar requirements as Connecticut. Southern claims such laws impede its ability to compete in those markets and keep retail prices “artificially high.” The wholesaler asserts that federal antitrust laws should allow it “the opportunity to compete in markets nationwide, including by offering business efficiencies and economies of scale, competitive pricing, and other strategies to be responsive to consumer demand.”

“This petition presents an important question regarding the Sherman Act’s application to state laws that effectively promote private collusion on prices in a manner that suppresses competition and creates barriers to market entry,” Southern says.—Daniel Marsteller

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