Tougher laws for online alcohol sales are needed to prevent under-18s and people with an alcohol dependency from buying liquor at the touch of a button, UNSW public health researchers say.
Buying liquor online is just too easy, new UNSW Sydney research has found.
In an Australian first, public health researchers examined the sales, marketing and delivery practices of the 65 most popular online alcohol retailers in Australia, and the easy access to liquor – for anybody willing to buy it – shocked them.
Drug and Alcohol Review published the research, conducted in mid-2019, this month.
The researchers found 69 per cent of websites would leave alcohol unattended at an address without having verified the purchaser’s age; 12 per cent offered delivery within two hours; 13.8 per cent allowed customers to purchase alcohol through a “buy now, pay later” scheme; about 20 per cent offered a 750mL bottle of wine for under $5; 81.5 per cent offered discounts for buying more, and there was no requirement for delivery drivers to hold Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) certification.
Australian online alcohol sales were worth an estimated $569.4 million in 2019, representing 4.6 per cent of total alcohol sales, in a rapidly growing market where online sales averaged 14 per cent annual growth in the previous five years.
Soberingly, Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show there were 4,186 alcohol-related deaths in Australia in 2017, the latest data available.
Study co-author and UNSW Master of Public Health graduate Stephanie Colbert said that 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 750mL 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.”