Underage drinkers exploit online sales

  • Post category:News

The Government has admitted it is effectively powerless to stop off-licences selling alcohol to underage drinkers on a cash-on-delivery basis.

Last night’s Primetime programme on RTÉ showed a number of off-licences in Swords in north Dublin to be illegally accepting payment at the door of private dwellings from underage drinkers who had phoned in the order.

Two supermarkets – Superquinn and Tesco – were also shown in the programme to have made deliveries to underage drinkers after the orders had been made online using a debit card.

The test buyer experiment showed that taxi services are also sometimes used to deliver the alcohol.

Earlier this year figures emerged showing that just 210 temporary closure orders had been effected against off-licences from 2003 for selling alcohol to underage drinkers.

However, the Department of Justice admitted that while the laws are there to prevent the practice – and a further tightening of the law will be implemented in the near future – the popularity of online shopping has made it harder for gardaí to catch off-licences engaging in cash-on-delivery practices in the act.

“It is a very difficult area because online shopping has become very popular – it is an important aspect of eCommerce – and the purchase of alcohol is legitimate as long as payment is made when the product is purchased,” said a department spokesperson. “Many supermarkets provide such a service and some off-licences also provide a delivery service and advertise dial-and-delivery services.”

Section 31 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988 and section 31(2) both make it an offence for a licence holder to sell or deliver, or permit any other person to sell or deliver, intoxicating liquor for consumption by a person under the age of 18 years in any place except with the explicit consent of the person’s parent or guardian in a private residence in which he or she is present either as of right or with permission.

However, off-licences engaging in so-called “dial a can” delivery services are breaking the law, but are not coming to the attention of the gardaí.

“It is extremely difficult for An Garda Síochána to detect an offence taking place at the front door of a private dwelling,” said the spokesperson.

“The problem of illegal alcohol sales arises where alcohol is ordered by phone, email or text message and payment is made on delivery; that is an offence.”

However, Justice Minister Dermot Ahern has said that in the future Sale of Alcohol Bill he will also make it an offence for a third party – such as a taxi driver or courier – who delivers alcohol and accepts payment for it.


Source: The Irish Examiner, 20/08/10
Journalist: Noel Baker