Sales vs safety: the minor inconvenience of online alcohol delivery

Alcohol has never been so readily available online, whether it’s the option to add a bottle of wine to the shopping cart at Woolworths online or order a magnum of Saint Roch Le Rosé from Vinomofo on UberEats.

Most liquor retailers now offer their range online, but is there enough measures in place to ensure alcohol doesn’t fall into the hands of minors? And how much of this responsibility lies with third party delivery platforms?

Julie Ryan CEO Retail Drinks Australia told Inside FMCG that when it comes to bricks and mortar stores, a licence is required to sell liquor and all team members doing so require an RSA.

However a licence that deals with online sales only does not require all team members to be RSA trained as they are not all present at the time of sale. When it comes to third party delivery companies, such as Uber Eats, they are not required to hold a license at all.

“Third party delivery companies complete the ‘delivery’ of the sale. The sale itself is completed by a liquor retailer under their own liquor licence and that is who is responsible for the sale,” Ryan explained to Inside FMCG.

“There is currently no legislation around a delivery company needing a licence or for a delivery driver to have an RSA.”

Ryan said this is reflective of the fact that alcohol delivery may only represent a very small percentage of the work conducted by a delivery driver, unlike someone in a bottle shop who would do it full time.

She said that Management Plans or House Policies provide liquor retailers with guidelines on how to retail responsibly, including measures like verifying ID.

“A large number of responsible retailers actually already ensure that their third party contractors are RSA trained – this is a best practice stance and not a requirement currently,” she said.

The Retail Drinks Online Alcohol Sale and Delivery Code which was launched recently, requiries all retailers who are signatories to ensure that the third party delivery drivers they use are trained in the traditional RSA principles.

“Given the Code already represents more than 80 per cent of all alcohol sold online, it is clear how capturing both retailers and delivery agents like Australia Post as signatories will rapidly and dramatically change the delivery environment for alcohol,” Ryan said.

Jimmy Brings, an alcohol delivery services that operates in most Australian cities, operates on this basis.

“We place great importance on safety and following all the relevant laws and regulations,” a spokesperson told Inside FMCG.

“All of our drivers have RSA certification and when they deliver they check the IDs of the recipients if they look to be under 25 years old. Additionally, we never leave any alcohol unattended or with anyone who looks to be under 25 and doesn’t have valid identification to prove their age.”

Legislation around online alcohol sales varies from state to state. In NSW alcohol cannot be left unattended if purchased that day, and in Victoria it is considered an offence to deliver alcohol to anyone under 18.

In many states a date of birth is required to be entered at the time of purchase. Ryan said that most reputable retailers will go a step further by verifying customer details to ensure a minor is not using false identification or stolen cards.

“Some retailers commit that for all first time deliveries ID is checked for every customer, and most commit to the voluntary “ID25” principle which ]means that] their delivery agents will check the ID for any customer who looks under 25,” Ryan explained.

So is there enough being done to prevent alcohol falling into the hands of minors?

Ryan said express/same day delivery poses the biggest risk as it’s most attractive to persons under 18 and potentially hazardous for a person who is already intoxicated.

“The real risks to be considered is express or same day alcohol delivery, and almost all of the retailers operating in that space have agreed to sign the Retail Drinks Code which bans unattended alcohol delivery in the same day as it is ordered, and requires RSA trained drivers to be conducting those deliveries,” she said.

“This means anyone ordering alcohol for delivery the same day will be ID checked if they look under 25, and will have an assessment of whether they are intoxicated at the time of delivery. If they fail either of these tests, the alcohol isn’t delivered.”

She said that the industry is very good at self regulation with “robust practices” in place to ensure responsible delivery of alcohol.

Inside FMCG contacted Uber Eats for comment on its rules around alcohol delivery but did not receive a response ahead of publication.

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