On September 13, 2014, it was reported by the trade press that the European Commission had found that the increase by 160 percent of French excise tax on certain types of high-alcohol-content and luxury beers that was introduced on January 1, 2013 did not fall afoul of the free-market principles of the EU.
Under pressure from a coalition of domestic brewers, Belgium had complained to the Commission that the sharp increase of a very specific excise tax in France was, in reality, aimed at hindering the sale of beers that are typically brewed in Belgium and exported to France. Belgium felt that the French tax was aimed at protecting the domestic French beer and wine producers because it was so specifically tailored in terms of the types of beers it targeted in practice.
However, after a second complaint from Belgium, the Commission stuck to its initial conclusion that the additional French excise tax is not sufficiently specific to be earmarked as a protectionist measure shielding the French market from beers imported from Belgium.
The Belgian brewers have allegedly lost €58.6 million in sales since the introduction of the increased French tax on January 1, 2013. At the time of writing, it was not clear yet whether or not Belgium or (a coalition of) Belgian brewers would take the case directly to the European Court of Justice. Normally, when the Commission declines a complaint, the odds of obtaining a favorable ruling from the ECJ are against the complainants.