Will online sales lead to a change in the Icelandic state alcohol monopoly?

“My opinion is that online shopping with alcohol is something to be celebrated because the system we had regarding the sale of alcoholic beverages is outdated and does not meet the needs of modern Iceland,” said Bjarni Benediktsson, Minister of Finance, in an interview with mbl. .is.

He stresses that it is important to keep in mind that the world has completely changed since the laws concerning the sale of alcohol were put in place and that it is time to review the legal issues and to start day to meet the needs of today’s society.

Obsolete system to review

“I am fully aware that this is a controversial issue and therefore any proposed changes should be prepared diligently. But I feel that this is long overdue and that we need to have a real conversation about the legal framework regarding alcohol sales.

When asked if grocery stores should be able to sell alcohol, he said he supports the idea of ​​selling wine and beer in grocery stores, but all of the legislation needs to be analyzed to see if it works for modern society.

“We have to ask ourselves what kind of global system we want to see. Personally, I think selling wine and beer in grocery stores would be a positive change, but there are other legal issues to consider. In my mind, the reasoning behind our current system has not aged well.

The state will not lose alcohol revenue because alcohol tax is still collected, but it will lose the retail margin.

He adds that the current system of operating ÁTVR stores across the country, which does not provide revenue to ÁTVR, allows these foreign stores to offer cheaper alcohol in some cases. However, he stresses that it is important to take into account the level of service for campaigns when revising the legal framework for the sale of alcohol.

Nettó is waiting to see what happens

Nettó’s online store will not follow Heimkaup in starting to sell wine and beer and home delivery, Samkaup CEO Gunnar Egill Sigurðsson tells mbl.is. He always says they’re ready to go and just waiting to see what happens.

“We have prepared all the sites on our side and we will be ready when the time comes.”

The laws are not clear enough

He says the laws are not clear enough when it comes to selling alcohol online in Iceland. “We do our best to follow the rules and regulations whether we agree with them or not. We don’t want to circumvent the system when the laws are not clear enough in Iceland and the legal consequences are unclear. »

He says he thought a change in the laws regarding the online sale of alcohol would be passed before the summer. He points out that it has now been more than a year since the first online store offering beer was opened, so the uncertainty regarding this issue has been going on for a long time. The laws haven’t changed yet, and that’s why he’s sitting on the bench to see what’s going on.

Two possible outcomes

Sigurðsson says there are only two ways forward in this case. “Either the laws are changed so that domestic online stores can participate, or it will be banned, and then also for foreign online stores.” He adds that he does not know how it would be possible to ban foreign stores from doing this, and whether it is in fact possible to call these foreign stores to begin with.

Create a precedent

“When you have a foreign company’s identification number and a credit card reader, does that make it a foreign store, when the products are stored in Iceland and delivered to Iceland the same day?”

He thinks it doesn’t fit, but it’s up to the laws to figure it out.

He also points out that this type of business model does not pay any taxes or fees in Iceland and the money is transferred abroad instead of remaining in the economic system. Therefore, the Treasury loses if this is not changed.

“We’re not talking about a lot of money, but it sets a precedent, and is therefore quite important to consider for the future.”

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David A. Albanese