Rules tightened on alcohol home delivery

Retail Drinks, the representative body of packaged liquor retailers, has toughened up rules around the home delivery of alcohol, which now include a ban on unattended same-day deliveries.

Australians are increasingly getting alcohol delivered as part of a weekly shop or for the sake of ease, and research from IBISWorld suggested that revenue from online beer, wine and liquor sales is expected to increase 16.5% in the current year, to $569.4 million.

Now, Retail Drinks has instigated a new code to address the disparate state rules around alcohol home deliveries, which applies to all existing Retail Drinks members, which include Dan Murphy’s, Uber, Coles and Liquorland.

It says signatories represent more than 80% of all alcohol purchased online in Australia. Carlton and United Breweries and Boozebud, which sells alcohol via Ebay and is also owned by AB InBev, have not signed up to the code. Despite this, CUB told Brews News that while it is not a member of the RDA, it “strongly supports more accountability for online delivery” and is carefully reviewing the code.

Penalties for non-compliance include investigations and the threat of being disbarred from Retail Drinks as a code signatory and member.

The code came into effect at the beginning of this month banning unattended same-day deliveries, requiring direct collection at the door.

Non-same day unattended alcohol deliveries are permitted, but only if the customer has given specific delivery instructions at the time of purchase, whilst same day deliveries are allowed if an adult over the age of 18 with proof of age and who is not intoxicated is present.

In terms of identification, any person accepting the delivery of alcohol is required to provide ID if they appear to look under the age of 25, including Australian and foreign passports and drivers licences.

Online ordering systems must also enable a customer to self-exclude themselves from a delivery service for a specified period of time, or permanently, whilst alcohol deliveries of all kinds are banned between 1am and 6am.

It’s been a major point of contention, with Australian state governments arguing over the delivery of liquor so that underage people cannot take delivery of packaged liquor bought online. Some MPs raised the point that rules around unattended same-day deliveries put customers who are genuinely overage but potentially working during the day at a disadvantage when it comes to alcohol deliveries.

Retail Drinks acknowledge in the code that some Australian states already have legislated requirements, but there is no uniformity across the country with regards to these laws.

“As is the case with new and emerging business models in other industries, regulatory and legislative frameworks often fail to keep up with the pace of technological change and evolving consumer preferences,” it said.

“The Code is intended to provide a national, unified approach towards online alcohol sales and deliveries to eliminate inconsistencies that currently exist across Australia.

“In doing so, the Code delivers significant benefits to industry participants in the form of reduced red tape and duplication.”

Retail Drinks CEO Julie Ryan said that the code was a culmination of a six-month process in consultation with the government, industry and delivery companies.

“The Code has been developed in response to a desire from both industry and government to pursue a robust, best-practice and fit for purpose framework for the online alcohol industry which has grown by more than 11 per cent in the last five years,” she told Brews News.

Ryan also explained that the code promotes responsible practices in the online alcohol sales sector throughout the supply chain and not just with retailers themselves.

“Signatories commit to using delivery drivers who are trained in a fit for purpose responsible supply program, and ensuring those drivers are incentivised to refuse delivery in circumstances where alcohol could be misused,” she said.

Steve Donohue, managing director at Endeavour Drinks, said the company had been applying a number of voluntary measures in the online delivery space for some time.

“Such a Code not only ensures the whole industry will lift its game, but also gives us the opportunity to learn from others so that we can continue to improve and meet community expectations of a responsible retailer,” he said.

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