On May 18, 2021, congressional bi-partisan co-sponsors introduced the USPS Shipping Equity Act, a bill that would allow the Postal Service to ship beverage alcohol directly to consumers over the age of 21. If passed, the bill would lift a Prohibition-era ban that currently prevents the USPS from shipping wine and other alcohol directly to consumers.
This is not the first time such a bill has been introduced. In fact, it marks U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA)’s fourth attempt to introduce such a bill in Congress. However, this bill is a bipartisan one, and an equivalent bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate as well.
The DtC wine market has been growing for years, becoming a multi-billion-dollar industry, with craft brewers and spirits producers also seeing a steady increase in demand. The DtC wine channel grew by an unprecedented 27% in 2020 over 2019, and as the COVID-19 pandemic pushed many people to increase their use of e-commerce across the board, sales and shipping are top-of-mind for producers and consumers alike.
At first glance, the proposed law has multiple benefits for licensed alcohol producers. As the DtC alcohol market grows and volume increases, expanded availability and shipping options will be favorable to shippers. The USPS Shipping Equity Act would expand service to places that only the Postal Service serves, like remote and rural areas. It will also give producers more options for shipping alcohol, which could reduce costs and help them meet demand.
It is important to note that even with this new law in place, USPS and alcohol shippers would still have to comply with local and state laws that are in force from before sale through the point of delivery. For example, almost every state requires a shipper to hold a state-issued license before shipping there and levies significant tax obligations on the shippers as well.
Further, many states impose additional licensing and reporting burdens on common carriers involved in direct-to-consumer shipping, leading to questions about how a state would regulate a federal agency like USPS. The proposed bill gives USPS two years to create a system that will put the law into motion.
The idea of expanded services supporting the alcohol shipping market is beneficial for producers, but it remains unclear how state regulators may respond to USPS’s presence in the market and how USPS compliance with state regulations would play out. For the time being, this bill remains a useful piece of legislation that will be interesting to follow as it makes its way through Congress.
Learn more about managing your DtC alcohol shipping compliance.