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World Market wine customers affected by state's minimum markup law

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - Wisconsin wine connoisseurs got a rude awakening recently, when they were told about a bargain they were not entitled to get.

World Market recently e-mailed its members about a 20 percent discount for buying four or more bottles of white wine. The company later reduced the Wisconsin discount to 10 percent, after learning that the original offer violated the state’s 74-year-old minimum markup law.

Spokeswoman Marissa Durazzo said the discounted price was below its cost for buying the product.

That’s illegal in Wisconsin, where stores must sell most merchandise at a certain percentage above wholesale costs unless competitors go lower.

As a result, World Market’s Wisconsin stores must sell some brands in the sale 30 percent higher than elsewhere.

Durazzo said World Market offered the discounts in 21 states, and it later withdrew the offers in 10 states for various reasons.

This is just the latest flap involving the minimum markup law. A few years ago, lawmakers granted an exception so seniors could take advantage of price breaks on medicines.

Also, a federal judge struck down the markup for gasoline in 2008, but an appellate court restored it a year-and-a-half later.