Retail Drinks launches code of conduct for online alcohol sales

July 2, 2019
By Alana House

Retail Drinks Australia has officially launched its Online Alcohol Sale and Delivery Code of Conduct (Code), with signatories representing more than 80% of all alcohol purchased online in Australia.

The voluntary industry Code is the culmination of extensive consultation with industry and government to provide a robust, best-practice and fit-for-purpose framework governing the rapidly growing online alcohol sale and delivery market.

Endeavour Drinks MD Steve Donohue said: “As a founding member of Retail Drinks Australia, we’re proud to be a foundation signatory to the Code of Conduct.

“We take our responsible service of alcohol obligations very seriously, and have been applying a number of voluntary measures on our brands in online delivery for some time.

“Such a Code not only ensures the whole industry will lift its game, but also gives us the opportunity to learn from others so that we can continue to improve and meet community expectations of a responsible retailer. “

LMG Chief Executive Officer Gavin Saunders added: “The Code is a critical step in enhancing the ability of independent liquor store owners to compete in the online sale and delivery space responsibly.

“In joining as Code Signatories, independent retailers will be equipped with all the necessary educational tools and resources to not only participate but thrive in this rapidly emerging sector.”

Why Retail Drinks created the code

Retail Drinks CEO Julie Ryan (below) said that the Code’s primary purpose is to enhance retailers’ ability to trade in the online alcohol sector responsibly, thereby addressing any concerns that services could be used to supply alcohol to minors or persons who are intoxicated.

Julie Ryan CEO Retail Drinks Australia

“The Code represents an incredible innovation in industry self-regulation and today’s launch is a significant milestone in achieving a responsible retailing environment for the online alcohol sale and delivery sector,” she said.

“In fitting with Retail Drinks’ vision of enhancing the freedom to retail responsibly, the Code provides retailers with a comprehensive blueprint for participation in the digital economy, which is underpinned by the dual key principles of harm minimisation and education,” says Ms Ryan.

The Code seeks to address one of the challenges in regulating online alcohol sale and delivery, which is that liquor licensing legislation is state and territory based, but the marketplace is national.

“The Code promotes responsible practices in the online alcohol sale and delivery sector by encompassing not only the retailers themselves but the entire supply chain including major delivery companies, couriers and thirdparty logistics companies,” Ryan added.

“Signatories commit to using delivery drivers who are trained in a fit for purpose responsible supply program, and ensuring those drivers are incentivised to refuse delivery in circumstances where alcohol could be misused.”

Retail Drinks argues that alcohol delivery services can assist in harm minimisation for the community by allowing alcohol to be supplied safely to people who are legally able to purchase alcohol but are not in a fit state to drive (for example due to fatigue). Ryan notes harm minimisation is further enhanced by Code principles such as self-exclusion, and third party reporting.

“Consumers are empowered to make informed choices about stopping or ceasing access to services, with signatories offering self-exclusion mechanisms that not only suspend accounts, but all direct marketing as well.

“The Code also includes a comprehensive complaints and audit framework for dealing with any non-compliance, including specific consequences for any Code signatories found to be deliberately and repeatedly failing to comply with its requirements.”

Consultations are underway with state and territory governments to collaborate on the Code, including in relation to creating what the Code describes as “prescribed zones” for additional delivery service limits.

“The Code recognises existing regulated dry zones, preventing alcohol being delivered into these areas. However, there is also a recognition that alcohol crisis factors may warrant additional controls in certain prescribed zones, and we are committed to working with government to ensuring agreed limits are recognised by industry,“ says Ryan.

The Hon Victor Dominello MP, Minister for Customer Service (NSW) said: “It’s important that lawmakers, regulators and industry leaders are agile in responding to emerging online markets.

“As such, I commend Retail Drinks Australia for its leadership in developing this Code of Conduct for express alcohol delivery.

“It is essential that responsible service of alcohol practices are adhered to throughout the supply chain. Putting in place a robust industry code is an important measure which will complement the work of Liquor and Gaming NSW in ensuring RSA compliance across the growing express alcohol delivery market.”

A full copy of the Code can be accessed via Retail Drinks’ standalone Code website – click here.

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