Virginia and Third Parties, What You Need To Know Before November 4

In July of 2009, the Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (Virginia ABC) sent out Circular Letter 09-05 to Direct-to-Consumer Wine Shipper and Beer Shipper licensees, prohibiting Direct Shippers from contracting with third parties for receiving or shipping orders on behalf of the licensee. Since then, Virginia has been working with industry members to outline laws and regulations concerning the use of these third parties. The culmination of these efforts is a new Virginia regulation, which will go into effect this Sunday, November 4.

Initially these regulations were submitted in May of 2011 in support of a “fix-it bill” passed in April of 2010. The “fix it” bill – now current law – allows for direct shippers to ship through approved Fulfillment Warehouses and Marketing Portals. These new regulations define how out-of-state Fulfillment Warehouses and Marketing Portals can become approved by Virginia ABC to do business with Virginia Direct Shipper licensees.

What’s Changing for Direct Shippers Using Fulfillment Warehouses

From 2010 until now, the Virginia ABC has allowed Direct Shippers to apply for more than one direct shipping license and submit separate monthly shipment reports for each shipping location as a temporary workaround. This workaround will remain in place after November 4, but only until the existing extra licenses expire (one year from the date of issue) giving Direct Shippers and Fulfillment Warehouses time to become approved as defined in the new regulations. All wineries must continue to maintain their primary Virginia Direct Shipper license, but no new licenses for additional fulfillment locations are expected to be approved. In order to gain Virginia ABC approval, Fulfillment Warehouses will need to:

• Submit a copy of the Fulfillment Warehouse’s home-state fulfillment services license to the Virginia ABC

• Submit a written contract or addendum to an existing contract, between the Fulfillment Warehouse and the licensed Direct Shipper, listing all shipping locations and indicating that the Fulfillment Warehouse is the agent of the Direct Shipper for purposes of complying with the Virginia direct wine shipper’s law under Va. Code §§4.1-209 and 4.l-209.1, and Va. administrative regulation 3VAC5-70-240

• Maintain for two years and make available to Virginia ABC upon request, records of each shipment, including: quantity and volume, brands shipped, and names and addresses of recipients

Fulfillment Warehouses must submit these documents for EACH Direct Shipper they represent. A sample addendum to be endorsed by the Virginia ABC is currently being drafted and will allow any existing contract between the two parties to merely be referenced, saving time and protecting proprietary information in existing agreements.

What’s Changing for Direct Shippers Using Marketing Portals

Previously, the use of out-of-state Third Party Marketers remained largely unregulated in the U.S. – Virginia is one of the first states to restrict their use by out-of-state Direct Shippers. Beginning November 4, however, Third Party Marketers must follow these guidelines to become approved in the state:

• The Marketing Portal must be properly organized as an “agricultural cooperative” in its home state and provide a copy of its license to the Virginia ABC

• Establish and submit to the state a written contract between the Marketing Portal and the Direct Shipper

The most commonly thought of Third Party Marketers (aka Third Party Providers, TPPs, flash sites, email marketers) may find it impossible to satisfy the new requirements as most are not licensed as “agricultural cooperatives”. Beginning November 4, Direct Shippers will no longer be able to accept Virginia orders made through a Third Party Marketer that is not an “agricultural cooperative”.

Three years after the release of Virginia Circular Letter 09-05, final regulation of third party services will be enacted on November 4. Industry members that are affected by these changes should continue to stay informed and be prepared to adapt how they do business with Virginia.

Please comment with questions or contact Terri Cofer Beirne, Eastern Counsel, Wine Institute at