Distance Selling Policy

Wine and spirit businesses operating online or via mail order face issues specific to the sector, such as obtaining proof of age, as well as those common to all distance retailers, relating to the delivery, handling of complaints and data protection.   As a vital part of our industry, we ensure that the interests of distance retailers are represented in our policy work.

Cross border sales

The WSTA would like to see an EU regulatory regime which will allow businesses to take advantage of the cross-border potential of distance selling. The proposed EU Consumer Rights Directive seeks to harmonise consumer protection rules across the European Union, which is a welcome step. At the moment, different regulatory requirements across member states act as a barrier to trade, as they result in considerable legal uncertainly and compliance costs for businesses wishing to trade across the EU. 

Fine wine fraud

Fraud relating to fine wine investment is a growing problem.  Fraudsters target vulnerable consumers with sales of fines wines that are often not delivered or do not even exist at vastly inflated prices.  The WSTA has launched Fraud Prevention Forum, which will enable businesses to share information about fine wine fraud and other types of fraudulent activity within the wine and spirit trade and where necessary liaise with police, customs and regulatory agencies.


Like all licence holders, distance sellers have a duty to ensure that alcohol is not purchased by under 18s. In October 2010, new licensing conditions were imposed through The Licensing Act 2003 (Mandatory Licensing Conditions) Order 2010, which included a requirement to operate an age verification policy. This requires that people appearing to be under 18 are required to show photo identification to prove their age before buying alcohol.  

The WSTA worked on behalf of its distance retailer members to obtain clarification from the Government regarding how this legislation would apply to them. As a result, the Home Office guidance made clear that the requirement to see photo ID only applies in situations where the sale takes place face-to-face-  and does not require ID to be shown at the point of delivery. This means that online or mail order companies can continue to operate existing proof-of-age policies via other means, such as  through age verification software or compulsory registration, during which new customers are asked to confirm they are over 18. 

WSTA Distance Selling Code of Practice

The WSTA has developed a Distance Selling Code of Practice for Wines and Spirits, in which leading distance merchants have set out their commitment to high standards in all aspects of distance selling practice. 

Click here to access the Distance Selling Code of Practice


Want to know more? Ask Simon Stannard
Simon Stannard

Simon Stannard - European & International Affairs Director

An experienced EU negotiator, Simon joined the WSTA in September 2013.  With responsibility for European and  International Affairs he leads the WSTA’s work responding to Brexit.  He is involved with a number of WSTA Committees and Working Groups including the Exiting the EU Working Group, English Wine Committee, Wine Importers Panel and Distance Selling Panel.  Simon also represents the WSTA at meetings of the industry in Europe and internationally, and is Chairman of the European Federation of Wine and Spirit Importers and Distributors.

Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 0207 089 3855

Twitter @wstauk

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