Underage drinkers buying alcohol via delivery services, charity warns

Call for legislation to close loopholes allowing under-18s to buy alcohol through apps

App-based retailers like Deliveroo and Just Eat now have delivery arrangements with restaurants and off-licences. Photograph: iStock

App-based retailers like Deliveroo and Just Eat now have delivery arrangements with restaurants and off-licences. Photograph: iStock

 

The growth of drink deliveries through online platforms during the pandemic has enabled large numbers of underage drinkers to purchase alcohol, campaigners have warned.

A wide variety of drink delivery practices have emerged over the last number of years, both legal and illegal, which do not have effective age verification processes and operate outside of licensing hours.

Alcohol Forum, a charity working against the harms of alcohol misuse, said the problem is not new in Ireland but has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Greater enforcement is needed against illegal delivery services, the group said.

The use of WhatsApp, online and phone payments, taxis and delivery services to deliver alcohol have contributed to the growing problem of supply of alcohol to those under 18.

Reports of unregulated drink deliveries to groups of young people in parks and beaches across Ireland have emerged.

Paula Leonard, head of community action at Alcohol Forum, said it was important to close legal loopholes on alcohol delivery services and bring forward legislation allowing for greater clarity on the point of sale, age verification and legal operating hours.

App-based retailers like Deliveroo and Just Eat now have delivery arrangements with restaurants and off-licences.

“A simple click of the mouse throws up a myriad of options for unregulated and unlicensed vendors, who are advertising 24-hour dial-a-drink services,” the group said.

A Red C poll commissioned by the organisation found that 54 per cent of respondents were concerned that unregulated online and over-the-phone sale of alcohol is facilitating underage drinking.

Almost 80 per cent said the same regulations that apply to the sale of alcohol in stores, such as age verification and purchasing hours, should apply to online sales.

Of those surveyed, 56 per cent said the Government should ban the sale of alcohol through online services which are not tied to a retailer that has a licence to sell alcohol, such as an off-licence, restaurant or supermarket.

“Alcohol e-commerce has become an important part of the alcohol retail sector and it needs to be regulated in a way which mitigates the risks that we are currently seeing,” Ms Leonard said.