United States: USA: la recente sentenza della Corte Suprema può cambiare il mercato del vino americano?

Negli Stati Uniti, tra gli operatori del mondo degli alcolici da giorni non si fa altro che discutere della recente sentenza della Corte Suprema nel caso Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association v. Russel Thomas (executive director della Tenessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission ("TABC")), che sembra destinata ad avere ripercussioni importanti tanto per i rivenditori quanto per i consumatori finali di vino ed altri alcolici.
La pronuncia è interessante perché, sebbene indirettamente, tocca un punto fondamentale della distribuzione del vino in America, e potrebbe aprire le porte alla vendita diretta intra-stato da parte dei rivenditori/retailer di altri Stati, cosa sino ad oggi in molti casi vietata.

Il caso

Il caso nasce nel 2016, quando due società rivenditrici di alcolici, la Total Wine & More e la Affluere Investments, presentano una domanda per ottenere una licenza per vendere alcolici nello stato del Tennessee. La Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association (associazione che riunisce i venditori di alcolici locali) diffida la TABC dal concedere tali licenze, sul presupposto che la legge del Tennessee prescrive che le entità richiedenti tali licenze debbano risiedere per almeno due anni in tale Stato.

La TABC si rivolge quindi al tribunale competente, proponendo una domanda di accertamento preventivo circa la compatibilità della legge in questione con i principi costituzionali. Se da un lato, infatti, la costituzione degli Stati Uniti d'America, e più precisamente il 21° emendamento, garantisce ai singoli Stati il diritto di legiferare in modo autonomo in materia di alcolici, dall'altro lato, la stessa costituzione prevede una regola generale di non discriminazione degli operatori economici (produttori e rivenditori di vino inclusi) in ragione della loro residenza/sede nell'uno o nell'altro stato (c.d. Dormant Commerce Clause).

Il giudice territoriale accetta la incostituzionalità della legge del Tennessee e la TABC provvede quindi a concedere le licenze. La sentenza viene però appellata dalla Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association ed il caso finisce avanti la Corte Suprema statunitense.

La Corte, dal canto suo, aveva già affrontato una questione simile nel 2005, precisando nel famoso caso Granholm v. Heald che il 21° emendamento non dà agli Stati il diritto di legiferare in violazione della Dormant Commerce Clause, e dichiarando invalide le leggi che favoriscono i produttori di vino locali a discapito dei produttori degli altri Stati con riferimento alle vendite dirette ai clienti finali (c.d. "direct shipping"). In molti Stati, infatti, il direct shipping è oggi ammesso proprio grazie a tale sentenza.

Il dibattito che ha preceduto la presente pronuncia, riguardava in sostanza la possibilità di estendere in via analogica le conclusioni adottate nel caso Granholm anche al caso di specie, con il rischio (o la speranza, a seconda dei punti di vista) che ciò potesse incidentalmente aprire la porta ad una dichiarazione di illegittimità tout court di tutte le leggi statali che consentono ai rivenditori di uno stato di vendere alcolici direttamente ai consumatori finali, ma proibiscono ai rivenditori out-state di fare altrettanto. Più in generale, la causa veniva vista come base per un possibile attacco al c.d. three tier system, ossia la tripartizione del sistema distributivo su tre livelli, quelli del Producer/Supplier, Wholesaler e del Retailer, che, ai sensi della legge federale americana, non devono essere direttamente o indirettamente collegati tra di loro.

La sentenza

Sul punto, va detto che, se da un lato Corte ha confermato la posizione dei giudici di primo grado, riconoscendo la incostituzionalità dei requisiti di residenza posti dalla legge statale in questione, dall'altro lato non ha preso una posizione chiara sul commercio di alcolici interstatale.

In realtà, come già notato dai primi osservatori, la sentenza conferma che gli Stati rimangono "liberi di perseguire il loro legittimo interesse alla protezione dei cittadini dai rischi per la salute rappresentati dalla vendita di alcolici ", così come loro garantito dal 21° emendamento. Tali leggi sarebbero pertanto incostituzionali unicamente nel caso in cui lo Stato non fosse in grado di stabilire che le stesse sono necessarie per tutelare un interesse locale di rilievo, come la tutela della salute pubblica.

Sebbene, quindi, da un lato la sentenza non affronti il c.d. three tier system e la legittimità dei singoli Stati di regolare in modo autonomo la vendita di alcolici, dall'altro lato chiarisce che il 21° emendamento non mette al riparo, sempre e comunque, tali leggi da vizi di incostituzionalità, soprattutto qualora le stesse si pongano in contrasto con i principi generali di libertà di concorrenza ed equo trattamento degli operatori economici del settore in tutti gli USA.

Le conseguenze

Andrà valutato caso per caso se le leggi statali siano o meno discriminatorie, ed è probabile che la sentenza in commento apra la via a nuove impugnazioni delle leggi che impediscono la vendita diretta al dettaglio da parte di rivenditori basati fuori dagli Stati di riferimento.

Quello che è possibile dire sin da ora è che, al di là delle rassicurazioni della Corte, si tratta dell'ennesimo colpo all'impianto del three tier system e al 21° emendamento, che risponde alle istanze di cambiamento di una legislazione datata e tra le più complesse al mondo nel mercato degli alcolici che da più parti (consumatori in primis) si fanno sempre più pressanti.

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