Russian distance selling ban may be overturned

Thursday, 27. August 2015 - 12:00

Russian consumers may soon be able to buy wine and spirits over the Internet once more. According to a spokesperson for the RAR (the RosAlkogolRegulirovanie), which regulates the sale of alcohol in Russia, the organization is theoretically willing to allow sales over the Internet.

Vedemosti, Russia’s business newspaper, quoted the unnamed representative as saying: “The proposals of the business community could be brought to life if an effective control mechanism for distance trade was created.”  The remarks, made on Wednesday, were in response to a proposal made by the wine and spirits business community earlier this month.

Russian wine consumers have been unable to buy wine online since the government took the decision to ban distance wine selling in 2007. The law states that people can only buy wine once they’ve seen the physical bottle in the retail outlet they’re buying it from. In practice, both the legal and illegal wine trade have found ways to bypass the law, because it makes it impossible to move stocks to private and corporate clients. Although the Internet sites of official importers typically warn that sales can only be done after clients have seen the product, the law is seldom observed.

Maxim Kashirin, the CEO of Simple Group, told the TvRain channel that banning legal distance sales had hit legal players, while allowing illegal and unlicensed sales over the Internet to flourish. “We would like to have the law working for legal taxpaying companies,” he said, adding: “Big Retail is adding big wine markups. The presence of online sales channels with good prices could influence retail prices as well.” 

Mikhail Bodukhin, CEO of Fort wines, agreed. “Wine businesses will win due to lower legal risks and invest more in Internet technology. In a time when many supermarkets have switched to private label and no-name wines, it’s especially good for consumers,” he said.

Among the control mechanisms suggested by the alcohol trade in its formal request are harder-to-obtain distance sales licenses that will only be available to established legal entities, the use of credit cards as proof of age and sales restricted to day time only.

RAR has officially 30 days to evaluate the proposal. 

Anton Moiseenko