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Wine.com Ignores Federal Court Order;

Starts Delivery to Michigan Customers

by Joel Goldberg

Wine.com: Shipping to Michigan

A MichWine investigation confirms that Wine.com has started sending wine to Michigan customers, despite a Federal court order leaving Michigan's shipping ban temporarily in place.

The California-based internet retailer accepted and shipped two wine orders placed on MichWine's behalf since the court's stay went into effect October 6.

That's when Detroit-based Federal Judge Denise Page Hood ruled that Michigan could continue to enforce its ban on interstate retail wine shipping, pending a possible appeal of her September 30 decision that overturned it as unconstitutional.

Tom Wark, Executive Director of the Specialty Wine Retailers Association (SWRA), explained Judge Hood's two-part message as, "The law is unconstitutional, but legally out-of-state retailers may not ship into Michigan because of the stay."

On October 3 Wine.com announced it would immediately enter the Michigan market, saying that "shipments of wine by out of state retailers to Michigan residents are now legal." This came after Judge Hood's initial ruling, but before the stay went into effect.

John Sellek, spokesman for Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, told MichWine their office was unaware of Wine.com's plans to ship to Michigan, but said Cox's position is that "the law stands during the stay. That's what Judge Hood said." 

MichWine's first order, placed on the Wine.com website October 9, was shipped from California the following day and delivered in Michigan on October 16. The wine arrived in a carton emblazoned with the Wine.com logo (see photo) and required an adult signature for delivery.

An email confirmation from Wine.com shows the second order, placed October 14, in transit from California and scheduled for Michigan delivery later this week. [UPDATE 10/21: The second order has been delivered.]

In neither instance did Wine.com collect Michigan sales tax.

Wark said that the SWRA, to which Wine.com does not belong, supports legal challenges to shipping prohibitions and passage of consumer-friendly shipping legislation, but not defiance of existing laws. In the past, Wine.com has unilaterally pursued and turned in other retailers it claimed were breaking state shipping laws.

Sticker on cartonMultiple attempts to contact Wine.com officials by email and phone for this story were not returned. A Wine.com customer service representative said company policy was "not to provide contact information for company officials."

Sellek said that state officials had not yet decided whether to appeal Judge Hood's decision that overturned the shipping ban.

Wark urged Michigan not to waste taxpayer money on "fruitless appeals", but to quickly pass a law that would legalize, regulate and tax interstate wine shipments, and let the State "capture tax revenue on shipments that address a legitimate consumer demand."

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