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New online battleground in fight to stop underage alcohol sales is revealed in new report

14 June
08:55 2012

Online alcohol sales and purchasing by friends and family are creating a “significant and emerging battleground” in the fight against underage drinking, reveals a new report by leading independent auditors of underage sales Serve Legal and Plymouth University.

The report – Checked out: the role of ID checks in controlling underage drinking – indicates that high street retailers have become significantly better at checking the age of potential underage drinker in recent years. In 2007 the ID of teenage mystery shoppers attempting to buy alcohol from shop retailers or pubs was checked just over half of the time (55%). By 2010, ID was checked in more than seven in 10 cases (71%). 

However, the report warns that while greater vigilance by all retailers has helped reduce alcohol consumption among young people, it has also prompted a shift in the way underage drinkers are getting hold of alcohol. 

Online retailers are identified as a key potential source of alcohol for young people, presenting a window of opportunity for underage drinkers looking to circumvent the stricter alcohol policies now in place in many high street retailers.

Researchers working on the Checked Out report uncovered a number of websites that sold alcohol where there was either no discernible age-check policy, or a simple disclaimer noting that the consumer needed to be over 18 to complete the purchase. 

Even major retailers, many of which have age-related policies in place regarding on-line alcohol purchases, mainly relied on an ID check at the point of delivery, putting the onus on delivery workers and placing them in potentially confrontational situations. 

Ed Heaver, director of Serve Legal, who commissioned the report, said: “Retailers have woken up to the fact that they have to get tough when it comes to making sure employees are checking IDs. While this is good news in reducing underage alcohol consumption, it is foolish to assume under-18s aren’t getting their hands on alcohol elsewhere.

“The battleground is changing in the fight against underage 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.” 

Source: Serve Legal

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