Who Is Consumer Protection Agency Protecting?

Editorial: CT's Consumer Protection Department shouldn't enforce higher liquor prices

Despite the fact that Connecticut's unique minimum price law for liquor hurts both taxpayers and customers, it is the law — at least for now.

Therefore, it made sense for the state to go after Total Wine & More and BevMax, both of which recently blatantly sold liquor below the state's minimum price levels, to tell them to knock it off. It also was wise of the two companies to agree, and for Total Wine to pay $37,500 to settle its case.

But why was the state's Department of Consumer Protection the enforcer? Surely, neither liquor big-box retailer hurt consumers.

Quite the opposite, in fact: The stores' lower prices temporarily saved consumers money — and, insofar as they stopped customers from buying in Massachusetts, Connecticut's cheap-booze neighbor, the retailers contributed to state tax coffers.

Years ago, liquor control was made a function of the consumer protection agency. Thus, the department must, by law, occasionally enforce laws that hurt consumers. It's a contradiction that ought to be examined by the legislature.

The fate of the state's minimum price law may well be decided by a pending federal lawsuit.

In the meantime, it's ironic that in this case the agency acted like the Department of Mom-and-Pop Liquor Stores Protection.

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