Retail Drinks refutes anti-alcohol lobby delivery claims

Retail Drinks Australia has criticised a report published this week by the Foundation of Alcohol Research and Education which argued that children are being put at risk from online sales and home delivery of alcoholic products.

The lobby group, which says it aims to prevent harm caused by alcohol consumption, claimed that alcohol retailers in Australia are not required to verify proof of age identification when selling alcoholic products online.

Retail Drinks, whose industry partners include Amazon, Beer Cartel, Coles Liquor and Endeavour Group, has a Code of Conduct covering online alcohol sales and deliveries which has been in place for two years. Earlier this year, the NSW Government introduced a package of alcohol delivery reforms closely aligned with the code.

Read both the press releases below.

Articles published under the media release byline are news produced by the relevant business and remain unedited by Brews News. These media releases were circulated by Retail Drinks Australia and the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education.

Retail Drinks Australia (Retail Drinks) has today criticised research released by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) regarding the online liquor retailing industry.

Retail Drinks CEO Michael Waters refuted the research’s claims that online customers were not subject to age verification processes, highlighting the fact that age verification occurs at various points throughout the supply chain.

“FARE’s latest report mischaracterises the nature of the online alcohol delivery sector, choosing to ignore the fact that age verification occurs throughout the entire delivery process, including at point of delivery, rather than only at the point of sale. This finding demonstrates a complete lack of understanding regarding the nature of the online alcohol delivery services.

“The use of incomplete data to arrive at inadequate findings ahead of a parliamentary debate on liquor laws in Victoria not only skews the debate in the wrong direction but it also undermines 2 years’ worth of public policy consultation and is sadly tone deaf to the pressures being felt by retailers during a global pandemic.

Waters dismissed the notion in the FARE report that an increase in the popularity of online liquor retailing was cause for alarm in and of itself, noting the need for online delivery services during the COVID-19 pandemic for customers in lockdown or simply wishing to avoid leaving the home to purchase these goods.

“Contrary to FARE’s commentary, the fact that online alcohol services have grown in popularity is hardly a cause for panic, particularly given the significant shift in consumer behaviour brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst we have seen an increase in retail alcohol sales, including online alcohol sales and deliveries, overall alcohol consumption is still in a state of decline.

“State & Territory governments throughout the country have been imploring consumers to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission by ordering online and the growth in the online retail liquor industry is no different to any other retail sector.

Waters also pointed to Retail Drinks’ Online Alcohol Sale & Delivery Code of Conduct (The Code) which has established a set of responsibility standards in online liquor retailing which goes above and beyond the law in most Australian states and territories.

“Retail Drinks has responded to the growth in online liquor retailing by proactively establishing an industry-first, world-leading Code, which has now been in place for over two years and covers over 80 per cent of all alcohol sold online and delivered in Australia.

“Code Signatories include some of the most recognised and trusted companies and brands who have safeguards embedded in their apps, procedures and systems which specifically prevent alcohol deliveries to minors.

“As per the requirements of the Code, these systems must verify the age of customers as over 18 and consist of more than a manual date of birth entry. The Code also mandates a number of key responsibility measures, including a ban on same-day unattended alcohol deliveries, block-out delivery times, self-exclusion and mandatory training for all alcohol delivery drivers.

Media release published by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education.

21st July 2021

The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) and Berry Street are calling on governments to keep families and children safe from the harms from online sales and delivery of alcohol.

A new report by FARE has found children are being put at risk as alcohol retailers in Australia are not required to verify proof of age identification when selling alcoholic products online.

Examining the controls that are in place online to prevent alcoholic products from being sold to children, the report found that none of the online alcohol retailers reviewed used point-of-sale age verification to confirm age.

The need for action by governments comes as the report also found that 2020 saw total website visits to online alcohol retailers increase to 148 million, a 37 million (34 per cent) jump in website traffic compared to 2019. The four biggest online alcohol retailers were visited an estimated 134 million times in 2020. The growth between 2019 and 2020 is more than triple the website traffic growth seen between 2018 and 2019.

FARE CEO, Ms Caterina Giorgi said that there has been a rapid growth in online alcohol sales in Australia and it’s important we close the loopholes to help keep families and communities healthy and well.

“The checks and balances that we expect as a community to be in place to ensure that alcoholic products are not sold to children are not there when alcohol is sold online,” Ms Giorgi said.

“For most of Australia, there are no measures in place ensuring alcohol companies verify people’s age when they buy alcoholic products online.”

Michael Perusco, CEO of Victoria’s largest child and family services provider, Berry Street, agrees more needs to be done to ensure young people aren’t so easily able to access alcohol.

“At Berry Street, we support and care for some of the most vulnerable children and young people in our community, including those who aren’t able to safely live with their families,” Mr Perusco said.

“For too many, alcohol appears to be an easy escape. But it only adds to the complexities and challenges they face as they seek to recover from their trauma.

“Being able to shop online has made it harder to protect young people from buying alcohol. Governments need to do more to ensure alcoholic products cannot be sold to children,” Mr Perusco said.

Ms Giorgi said there are digital age-verification solutions that alcohol retailers could implement.

“Governments have the opportunity to ensure we are doing all we can to keep families and communities safe by introducing common-sense measures including requiring age verification when alcohol is sold online,” Ms Giorgi said.

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