Pennsylvania Supreme Court Affirms that the PLCB Must Implement a Procedure for Direct Shipment of Special Orders
On March 25, 2021, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the previous Opinion and Order of the Commonwealth Court, holding that the PLCB must implement a new procedure permitting the shipment of special orders directly to customers. MFW Wine Co., LLC v. Pa. Liquor Control Bd., 2021 Pa. Lexis 1275 (Pa. Mar. 25, 2021).
Prior to 2016, customers who purchased “special orders” (defined as a “class, variety or brand of liquor or alcohol not currently available from the [PLCB]”) were required pick up such orders at a PLCB store and pay a handling fee. 47 P.S. § 3-305. Then, Act 39 of 2016 required that the PLCB implement a policy permitting shipment of special orders from the licensed importer or vendor directly to the customer. 47 P.S. § 3-305(a). When the PLCB did not implement such a policy, and particularly due to the PLCB stores’ temporary shut down during Covid-19, the Petitioners filed a lawsuit for Declaratory Judgment and a Writ of Mandamus seeking to require the PLCB to implement direct shipping. MFW Wine Co., LLC v. Pa. Liquor Control Bd., 231 A.3d 50 (Pa. Commw. 2020).
The Commonwealth Court reviewed Act 39 and the related legislation, and held that it clearly and unambiguously required the PLCB to “allow and facilitate the direct shipment of special orders from licensed vendors and importers to customers as an alternative to pick up at a PLCB store.” Id. at 55. In making this Order, the Court clarified that the PLCB still will require authorization before such sales can be complete, and may charge a fee for the same. However, the PLCB may not charge an additional handling fee for items shipped directly to the customer. Id. at 58. Finally, even though the deadline for implementing this new policy was supposed to be June 1, 2017, the Court chose not to impose any specific time frame for the PLCB to do so now. Rather, it suggested the PLCB must do so in a “reasonable amount of time” in order to implement a thoughtful process. Id.
Now that the Supreme Court has affirmed this ruling, a new policy from the PLCB should be forthcoming. Although the specifics of that policy remain unknown, it will permit the shipment of special orders directly to customers, thus removing the requirement for all such items to be picked up at a PLCB store.
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