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Alcohol ‘too easy’ for minors to buy online

By Jamieson Salter

New research has found alcohol is too easy to buy online for under-18s and people with an alcohol dependency.

University of NSW Sydney public health researchers said tougher laws for online alcohol sales were needed after monitoring the sales, marketing and delivery practices of the 65 most popular online alcohol retailers in Australia.

The research found 69 per cent of websites would leave alcohol unattended at an address without having verified the purchaser’s age.

It also discovered there was no requirement for delivery drivers to hold a Responsible Service of Alcohol certification.

Australian online alcohol sales were worth an estimated $569.4 million in 2019, representing 4.6 per cent of total alcohol sales, and online sales averaged a 14 per cent annual growth over the past five years.

Study co-author and UNSW Master of Public Health graduate Stephanie Colbert said regulation had fallen behind the rapid growth in online alcohol sales in Australia.

“This is creating new problems around minors accessing alcohol, the sale of alcohol to intoxicated persons and easy access to cheap alcohol — from $2.88 for a 750 ml bottle of wine, which is cheaper than a cup of coffee,” Ms Colbert said.

“The liquor industry recognises they can get away with more online: a recent industry report about online alcohol sales stated, ‘Unlike many liquor related industries, the online beer, wine and liquor sales industry operates under a low level of regulation and policy'.

“I told a friend who brews beer for a living that delivery drivers don’t need an RSA to deliver alcohol to retail customers — he was shocked, and he works in the alcohol industry.”

Co-author Professor Robyn Richmond said the community were shocked to find online alcohol delivery services weren't subject to the same standards as other forms of alcohol supply.

“The fact that online alcohol is accessible to minors, intoxicated persons can just get a top-up and it’s so easy to access cheap alcohol, at any time from any location, are all major concerns,” Prof Richmond said.

“There’s a misconception that a teenager needs to steal their parent’s credit card to make the purchase, but they can just use PayPal.

“Even if you type in the birth year of a minor before making a purchase on these websites, you can just go back and enter an adult’s birth year.”