When Sweden became an EU member state, the EU approved Sweden’s retention of its retail monopoly, noting that the fundamental purpose of Systembolaget was to protect public health from the harmful effects of alcohol. The approval was contingent upon Systembolaget complying with EU law, including the nondiscrimination requirement.
Swedish products may not be favoured
Prices must be set in accordance with objective criteria that apply equally to domestic and foreign products. It must also be possible for Systembolaget’s drinks suppliers to appeal decisions to reject tenders and decisions to remove a product from the range. This requirement led to the establishment of the Swedish Alcohol Product Range Board (part of the Alcohol & Pharmaceuticals Product Range Board).
Alcopops and bag-in-box
The Alcohol Product Range Board has decided, amongst other things, that the sale of bag-in-box format wine and mixed drinks – “alcopops”– must be permitted in Sweden, after Systembolaget had rejected tenders for these types of products with reference to public health. Bag-in-box wines now account for over half of all wine sales in Sweden.The agreement with the EU also stipulated that the Swedish Competition Authority shall monitor Systembolaget’s operations to ensure they are non-discriminatory. The Swedish Competition Authority, which reports to the Commission twice yearly, has not found any evidence that Systembolaget’s operations are conducted in a discriminatory way since it began reporting.