Total Wine & More under investigation for violating state pricing law

By Kevin Zimmerman

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Total Wine & More, the wine, beer and spirits retailer that filed a lawsuit last week challenging Connecticut’s alcohol pricing rules, is under investigation by the Department of Consumer Protection for allegedly selling its wares for prices less than those allowed by the state.

The chain, which operates a location in Norwalk, ran a series of ads in newspapers touting how its prices were lower than the state’s “mandated price” on Aug. 23, the same day it filed suit in U.S. District Court in Connecticut.

At issue is the state’s mandatory minimum pricing statute, designed to protect independent alcohol retailers from larger chains who buy and sell their inventory in bulk and thus can undercut the independents’ prices.

Total Wine’s lawsuit asserts that the statute results in prices that “may be in excess of 25 percent higher than prices offered for identical products in surrounding states,” and that “The price-fixing by wholesalers and retailers constitutes restraint of trade and a violation of the federal Sherman Antitrust Act.”

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