Customs and Regulations
There are three areas of concern in shipping alcohol:
- customs regulations
- FDA regulations
- interstate alcohol laws
These laws, many which have arisen due to recent homeland security issues, make importing very difficult. For example, a bill passed in late 2003 requires all importers to notify customs agents in writing before any package crosses the border into the U.S.
Suffice it to say it is much easier to purchase from a U.S.-based importer who already has secure channels to import the wine or aperitif you want. It's basically impractical to order spirits from an international company.
These are also very tight regarding international trade but are not prohibitive to shipping alcohol within the borders of the U.S.
Interstate alcohol laws
There is a court battle between two doctrines:
- The 21st amendment to the US constitution permits states to regulate alcohol sales at their own discretion.
Many states are concerned about minors' ability to purchase alcohol via the Internet, having it delivered to their homes. Postal officers are required only to ask whether recipients are of age.
Some states have an outright ban of the delivery of alcohol through the mail.
- The Commerce Clause is a federal law advocating companies' rights to engage in interstate trade.
Internet and mail order companies appeal to the Commerce Clause which protects their right to conduct business across state lines. In several cases, federal court judges have protected this right and thrown out state bans on alcohol deliveries.
Consumers need to know the latest laws in the state to which they are shipping. They also need to be informed of how secure those laws are or if they are currently being disputed in court.