CJEU Case C-333/14 | Scotch Whisky Association and Others v Lord Advocate

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Information Guide on Case C-333/14 from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), concerning the minimum pricing of alcoholic drinks and the protection of human life and health.

Further information:

Scotland's Parliament passed legislation in 2012 relating to the minimum price of alcoholic drinks in the territory. That legislation provides for the imposition of a minimum price per unit of alcohol (MPU) which must be observed by any person holding a licence for the retail selling of alcoholic drinks in Scotland. The minimum price is calculated by the application of a formula that takes into account the strength and volume of alcohol in the product. The objective of the Scottish legislation is to protect human life and health. In the opinion of the Scottish legislature, that objective could not be achieved with the same degree of success by means of tax measures.

The Scotch Whisky Association and a number of other undertakings in the alcoholic drinks sector brought proceedings against that legislation. They claim that the Scottish legislation constitutes a quantitative restriction on trade that is incompatible with EU law, and that its effect is to distort competition among distributors of alcohol. Further, they maintain that tax measures could less restrictively achieve the objectives pursued by the legislation.

In that context, Scotland's Inner House of the Court of Session requested in September 2014 from the CJEU a clarification on whether the introduction of a minimum price is compatible with EU law. The judgment on 23 December 2015 states that Scottish legislation introducing a minimum price per unit of alcohol is contrary to EU law if less restrictive tax measures can be introduced. The CJEU argues that a tax measure might provide additional benefits and a broader response to the objective of combating alcohol misuse.

Related Links
Commentary and Analysis
EU Law Analysis, 23/12/2015: Protecting Health, or Protecting Trade? A fine balance in the Scotch Whisky Association judgment http://eulawanalysis.blogspot.com/2015/12/protecting-health-or-protecting-trade.html
UCL Blogs: KSLR EU Law Blog, 08/02/2016: ‘Counting every sip of my whiskey?’ The CJEU rules on minimum alcohol price https://blogs.kcl.ac.uk/kslreuropeanlawblog/?p=1016
UCL Blogs: King's Student Law Review, 18/05/2020: Case Note: C-333/14 Scotch Whisky Association and Others v Lord Advocate and Advocate General for Scotland [2016] 2 C.M.L.R. 27 – Jochelle Greaves Siew https://blogs.kcl.ac.uk/kslr/?p=1522

The Guardian, 23/12/2015: Minimum alcohol price in Scotland breaches EU law, court rules http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/dec/23/minimum-alcohol-price-in-scotland-could-breach-eu-law-court-rules
BBC News, 23/12/2015: Minimum alcohol pricing plan 'may breach EU law' http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-35160396
Herald Scotland, 23/12/2015: European Court of Justice rules Scottish Government's minimum alcohol price plan could breach EU law http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/14163284.display/
Politico, 23/12/2015: Scottish booze law slapped by EU’s top court http://www.politico.eu/article/scottish-booze-law-slapped-by-europes-top-court-sturgeon/
EurActiv, 04/01/2016: Minimum pricing on alcohol still debated after court ruling http://www.euractiv.com/sections/health-consumers/minimum-pricing-alcohol-still-debated-after-court-ruling-320647

CJEU CURIA: Case C-333/14 | Scotch Whisky Association and Others http://curia.europa.eu/juris/documents.jsf?num=C-333/14
CJEU: Press Release, 23/12/2015: Judgment in Case C-333/14 Scotch Whisky Association and Others v Lord Advocate http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2015-12/cp150155en.pdf
Welsh Government: Written Statements, 15/11/2017: Written Statement - Supreme Court judgment in the matter of Scotch Whisky Association and others v The Lord Advocate and another https://gov.wales/written-statement-supreme-court-judgment-matter-scotch-whisky-association-and-others-v-lord

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