Online retailers risk selling to under-18s: report

15 June, 2012

Online drinks retailers risk selling alcohol to under-18s because there are not enough policies and checks in place to prevent it, a new report has warned.

The report – Checked Out: The Role of ID Checks In Controlling Under-age Drinking – was commissioned by Serve Legal, which carries out test purchasing for retailers and other businesses. It said that, as retailers have upped their game in checking the ages of potential under- age drinkers, youngsters have found other ways of getting hold of alcohol.

While proxy purchasing – especially through parents – is the most popular way, the internet is another potential battleground, the report said.

It found that all the major retailers had policies in place to prevent under- age sales – usually age checks on delivery – but that “a number of sites selling alcohol had either no discernible age check policy or a simple disclaimer noting that the consumer needed to be over 18 to complete the purchase”.

The report also said that little work was being done to combat under-age purchasing online, either in terms of research into the scale of the problem or development of policies and proce- dures to prevent it.

It said: “Online sales present a serious threat due to the nature of the internet and the difficulty we have in policing it.”

Serve Legal director Ed Heaver said: “The battleground is changing in the fight against under-age drinking. Online retailers need to take heed of this warning and improve their age-checking procedures. Meanwhile, parents and friends also need to understand the harm their proxy purchasing is doing.”

Drinkaware chief executive Chris Sorek said: “It is concerning to hear about the emerging trend of under-age alcohol sales online. Any sale of alcohol to children under the age of 18 is unacceptable.

Evidence shows young people who start drinking at an early age drink more and more frequently than those who delay their first drink, so it’s essential that parents talk to their kids about alco- hol in their pre-teen years.”

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