A retailer challenging minimum pricing for tobacco has reached the heights of the European Court.
The case involves a dispute between a Belgian retailer (Colruyt) and the Belgian authorities in respect of tax banderoles that manufacturers apply to cigarette packages and that in effect set a minimum retail price. The Belgian court asks the European Court whether Belgian laws that regulate this breaches European laws.
Whilst this dispute arises in respect of tobacco products and, in particular, tax banderoles, the decision could have an impact in the UK and other countries seeking to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol.
This is because the Belgian court's questions are not limited to the tobacco directive but also asks whether rules on free movement of goods or the rules on state sovereignty combined with competition rules could limit the ability set minimum prices in such a way.
When will the court give its views? Hard to say, but one and a half to two years would be a typical average.