On your doorstep: Underage access to alcohol via home delivery services

English | Cymraeg

24 June 2013

Note: This report was written and/or funded by our predecessor organisation Alcohol Concern.

Executive summary

Underage drinking remains a key concern in Wales. Whilst it is illegal to sell alcohol to persons under 18 years old, in reality, children and young people can and do get hold of alcohol, either via ‘proxy sales’ or directly themselves.

Online supermarket grocery services, and late night and 24 hour alcohol home delivery services, have to date received little attention as a potential source of alcohol for minors. In January and February 2013, an online survey was undertaken, on behalf of Alcohol Concern Cymru, of nearly 1,000 people in Wales aged 14 and 17 years old, to ascertain their usage of such services.

Of the 636 respondents who stated that they had previously bought or attempted to buy alcohol for themselves or someone else, 15 per cent stated they have successfully bought alcohol online, and over two thirds of these said they find it “easy” to do so. Similarly, 13 per cent said they have successfully bought alcohol by telephone from a home delivery service, and again over two thirds of these said it was “easy” to do so. Both online and telephone alcohol delivery services were chosen by many because they regarded them as easy ways to bypass age verification checks, and as a quick and convenient way of acquiring alcohol.

In March 2013, South Wales Police undertook a test purchases operation in Cardiff, using 15 year olds, to find out whether they were able to buy alcohol from major supermarket grocery websites. It was found that alcohol could be purchased online with relative ease, by simply agreeing to terms and conditions that indicated they were 18 years old or over, and being in possession of a debit card and email address. In 44 per cent of the test cases, alcohol was handed to the test purchasers in person with no proof of age requested.

The findings indicate that a significant minority of children and young people in Wales acquire alcohol via supermarket websites and home delivery services, and test purchasing suggests that age verification policies are not being adequately adhered to.

Alcohol Concern therefore makes the following recommendations:

Recommendation 1

Supermarkets and other off-trade retailers that provide an alcohol home delivery service should review their existing age verification procedures at both the point of sale and delivery stages, to ascertain whether they are fit for purpose. Particular attention should be paid to making it clearer to customers that receipt of orders that contain alcohol must be by an adult. Retailers should ensure that delivery staff have been given appropriate training in procedures relating to requesting and identifying proof of age, and implement these procedures as standard.

Recommendation 2

Further research should be undertaken in determining the proportion of children and young people who buy alcohol online and/or by telephone. More widespread test purchasing by police and trading standards is recommended.

Recommendation 3

The UK Government should review the efficacy of current licensing law relating to the home delivery of alcohol, in terms of whether it adequately protects children and young people from alcohol-related harm.