Alcohol made by Icelandic producers may eventually be purchased in online stores in Iceland if a bill the Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir intends to submit to Parliament in March is approved. If this happens, the ÁTVR, the State Alcohol and Tobacco Store’s decades-long monopoly on alcohol sales in Iceland will essentially be abolished.
If the bill indeed becomes law, alcoholic beverages will be available to Icelandic customers for the first time in online stores without the ÁTVR’s involvement. According to current law, the ÁTVR has a monopoly on all retail sales of alcohol in Iceland. However, alcohol can be purchased through foreign online stores and sent directly to buyers’ homes if the producers pay taxes in another country, although VAT and Iceland’s alcohol fees are still due. A recent government declaration states that the Minister of Justice intends to present a bill in March that will amend the current and long-standing restrictive alcohol laws.
Under this proposal, beverage producing companies such as craft beer brewers would be permitted to sell their products on-site so that they could be consumed on the premises, as well as selling them online and shipping directly to customers.
Next year, the government will accept a European directive that prohibits discrimination in the sale of goods and services by an individual’s residence. This means, for example, that online stores will be required to ship products to any country within the European Economic Area (EEA). Currently, numerous companies, such as Amazon, are prohibited from sending certain products to Iceland.
This Directive will mean that online stores selling alcoholic beverages will be required to serve customers both in this country as in any other EEA country. Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir pointed out four years ago how easy it is to order wine from abroad without the involvement of ÁTVR. She said that it’s strange that foreign vintners can sell alcohol here without paying taxes, but if an Icelander wanted to do the same, he would have to send the alcoholic beverage first abroad and have it shipped to customers in Iceland in order to comply with current laws.
Andrés Magnússon, Director of the Federation of Trade and Services, says the bill is a logical response from the government to a changing environment. “Online stores are increasingly popular here and everywhere else. There is no viable argument that an online store selling alcoholic beverages should not be allowed to compete and thrive as with any other product. We truly hope that this is the first step in easing the current alcohol retailing arrangements,” says Andrés.