AMA (NSW), along with other health stakeholders, are campaigning for stricter regulations around online sales and delivery of alcohol products.
LIQUOR & GAMING NSW has been consulting with the public and stakeholders on the draft Liquor Amendment (24-hour Economy) Bill 2020, which is expected to go to Cabinet in September, after which the Bill will likely be introduced to Parliament in November 2020.
These amendments will remove some of the imbalance in legal requirements between online and ‘bricks and mortar’ establishments.
AMA (NSW) has been advocating on the issue of online alcohol sales and delivery and views this Bill as an opportunity to close some of the loopholes that allow underage and intoxicated people to purchase alcohol from online operators.
Currently, there is minimal regulation for online sales and delivery of alcoholic products. Many online alcohol retailers do not verify age, despite this being an established legal requirement in pubs, clubs and bottle shops.
A 2020 UNSW study found a majority of Australian alcohol delivery websites have no adequate safeguards to prevent sales to minors. Many sites advertise they can leave alcohol unattended.
A second loophole in current regulations is that it is an offence in NSW to supply alcohol to a person who is intoxicated, but not if it is done by delivery.
There are concerns that online delivery services present risks to people with alcohol dependency, those at risk of suicide, and those experiencing family violence.
Alcohol consumption at home has increased during the COVID pandemic. Unfortunately, there has also been a corresponding rise in the number of calls to the National AOD Hotline from people seeking help with alcohol and drug use, and a significant increase in reports of alcohol’s involvement in family violence situations in NSW since COVID-19 restrictions began.
Research published last year revealed rapid delivery was leading to the supply of alcohol to people already intoxicated, bypassing responsible service of alcohol (RSA) provisions that are required for on-premises and takeaway liquor outlets.
Rapid delivery increases the availability of alcohol and subsequently heightens the potential risk of alcohol harms. Rapid delivery enables people to extend drinking sessions and drink at risky levels.
A VicHealth study found 40% of people would have stopped drinking if on-demand alcohol delivery wasn’t available. A FARE 2020 poll found 70% of Australians who use rapid alcohol delivery drank alcohol at a risky level (over four standard drinks) on that occasion.
Rapid alcohol delivery in the evening is of particular concern. Evidence suggests alcohol-related assaults increase between 6pm and 3am, with more than one-third (37%) of alcohol-fuelled assaults occurring in the home and 57% of those assaults being family violence.
There is also evidence which suggests suicides and sudden or unnatural deaths involving alcohol predominately happen at night in the home.
The risks of increasing excessive alcohol consumption, domestic violence and suicide, do not outweigh arguments around the convenience of rapid alcohol delivery. If rapid alcohol delivery was allowed to continue in NSW, AMA (NSW) recommends the cut off time be made earlier (8pm to 10am).
Under the current regulation you can order alcohol online without inputting identification details, have it delivered to your door within 30 minutes and have it left unattended or receive it without needing to show your identification.