The European Court of Justice will decide on 23 November whether to accept a recommendation by its advocate general, Francis Jacob, that consumers should pay only local duty on booze and cigarettes bought from other EU states online or on the phone. Four out of five such recommendations are upheld, without right of appeal.
John Murphy, director general of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, said such a "crazy" change to the law would mean larger internet wine retailers, including the major supermarkets, could offer bargain prices by shifting their wine delivery services to countries with lower duty rates.
Tesco and Asda already funnel CDs and DVDs bought on their websites through Jersey, where UK shoppers can buy items under £18 without paying VAT. Tesco has a warehouse in Calais, so it could benefit quickly from France's low duty rates if the law changed. Majestic Wine said this week it would supply online customers from France if the law was changed.
Criminals could also benefit by taking advantage of low duty rates to source tobacco and alcohol more easily for re-sale on the UK black market, said Sam Wilcox, MD of Spar wholesaler AF Blakemore & Son.
However, the BRC played down the impact of any change to the law.