The act forces the UK’s 300 mail order and internet wine sellers to obtain licences for their warehouses, rather than sales offices. The WSTA says local authorities are interpreting the new Licensing Act inconsistently and is calling on the government to clarify the rule, which is based on rateable value.
WSTA deputy chairman Barry Sutton said some companies rented only a small section of a warehouse, but there was a risk they would be charged based on the rateable value of the entire premises. He said: “The people who control the sales, and check that people are over 18, are those in the call centres, not the guys in the warehouses who pack the boxes.”
He added that some small wine merchants might decide they couldn’t afford the licence fee - which includes both a premises and a personal licence fee. The Wine Society, for example, will have to fork out £672 for a premises licence and a personal licence - up from the current annual charge of £30.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said the law was being changed to prevent “dodgy overseas companies selling drink to underage kids on the internet”. It means UK warehouses could have their licence removed if they are caught trading illegally.