AP NEWS

Proposed class-action suit calls Iowa liquor markups illegal

December 23, 2019 GMT

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A proposed class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of liquor retailers alleges that the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division illegally marked up the price of their products for years.

The lawsuit comes days after the division’s former comptroller filed his own lawsuit alleging he was fired for blowing the whistle on the illegal price markups. Attorney Stuart Higgins represents the plaintiffs in both cases.

Division spokesman Tyler Ackerson said Monday the agency is consulting with legal counsel and has no comment. He said last week that the allegations filed by former comptroller Todd Halbur were untrue.

The new lawsuit was filed on behalf of Class E liquor license holders who purchased products from the agency, Iowa’s exclusive wholesaler and distributor of liquor. Those licensees currently include nearly 1,700 grocery, liquor and convenience stores.

State law allows the division to mark up products by 50 percent above what it paid before selling them to licensees.

The lawsuit alleges that the markups that the agency assessed for years was “in excess of the statutory cap” and seeks reimbursement for the overcharges and other damages. It doesn’t elaborate on the amount involved.

The lead plaintiff is the owner of an Ottumwa convenience store that had a liquor license until 2016.