Australia: Rising Alcohol Availability Threatens Public Health, Safety and Savings

Alcohol delivery services in Australia are increasing alcohol availability and failing to meet the basic health standards according to results of a new survey. The results coincide with Australians spending superannuation funds urgently released due to COVID-19 on non-essential goods and services including alcohol. The developments clearly show a perfect storm forming of exploitative alcohol industry practices, increasing alcohol use problems and the ongoing global pandemic.

The on-demand alcohol delivery business has been growing fast in Australia with several companies including, UberEats, BWS Online, Tipple, Dan Murphys Delivery and Jimmy Brings.

New research illustrates that it is common for alcohol delivery services to not check IDs, deliver to those who are already intoxicated and leave alcohol unattended.  The survey was conducted on over 760 on-demand alcohol service users and over 890 non-users.

Key results of the survey:

  • A third of people who use on-demand services were given alcohol without their ID being checked, including around a quarter of people aged 18 to 24.
  • 71% of weekly users said they regularly received their orders despite being intoxicated.
  • 40% of people said they would have stopped consuming alcohol if on-demand alcohol delivery wasn’t available.
  • Harm increased the more frequently people used the services – almost three quarters of weekly users also consumed 11 or more units in a session at least once a week.
  • Almost half of people who used on-demand delivery reported having memory loss after alcohol use, compared with less than a quarter of people who don’t use on-demand alcohol delivery.
  • Almost three times more on-demand users reported being injured or injuring someone else after consuming alcohol compared with people who don’t use the services (i.e. 25% v 9%). Of those, nearly half said the last time an injury occurred they had been consuming alcohol sourced from an on-demand service.
  • 1 in 10 had orders left unattended and 15% of respondents said their order was collected by someone else.

VicHealth calls for better standard for alcohol delivery in Victoria

In response to these alarming results highlighting the threat of on-demand alcohol delivery to public health and safety, the health promotion agency in Victoria, VicHealth is calling to place better rules around alcohol on-demand delivery in Victoria.

This research for the first time shows a concerning link between ordering on-demand alcohol products online and harms like memory loss and injury. Those profiting from on-demand delivery are fuelling alcohol harms in our homes without following any of the standards our community expects for the service of alcohol,” said Dr Sandro Demaio, CEO of VicHealth, as per the VicHealth website.

These services make it easier than ever to push alcohol onto vulnerable people. Something is really wrong when a business is allowed to sell someone a bottle of hard alcohol when they’re already [intoxicated] and deliver it to their door in 15 minutes,” added Dr. Demaio.

VicHealth calls on the state government to take action to reduce the significant and proven harm on-demand alcohol delivery is causing. They call for the following reforms to the Liquor Control Reform Act:

  • There should be a delay of two hours between purchase and delivery.
  • Services offering on-demand delivery of alcohol products should be prohibited from trading between 10pm and 10am.
  • For all on-demand alcohol home delivery services, the person who places the order should also have to collect it, and present a photo ID as proof of age and identity.
  • Under no circumstances should deliveries of alcohol products be left unattended.
  • Alcohol on-demand delivery services should be prohibited from using direct marketing and inducements via email, text or in-app promotions.
  • Online alcohol retailers should have to follow the same regulations as on-premise retailers like pubs and bottleshops.

Even with regulations, alcohol delivery itself is hard to monitor. As Movendi International previously reported there are problems inherent to delivering alcohol as it is difficult to monitor and does not guarantee those operating the services actually adhere to the regulations. Furthermore, alcohol delivery increases availability of alcohol which is directly related to increased consumption and increased alcohol harm.

Australia: Alcohol Delivery Apps Fuel Harm

Australians spend superannuation funds for alcohol

The exploitative practices of the alcohol online trade coincide with – and might worsen – another worrying development in Australian society. People are spending emergency support during COVID-19 on non-essential and harmful goods and services, such as alcohol and gambling.

Superannuation in Australia are the arrangements put in place by the Government of Australia to encourage people in Australia to accumulate funds to provide them with an income stream when they retire. A type of employment funded pension, superannuation in Australia is partly compulsory, and is further encouraged by tax benefits.

The Australian government allowed emergency access to AU$10,000 of superannuation fees for all citizens to manage the challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Real-time bank transaction data crunched by the advisory firms Alpha Beta and Illion show many people who accessed their superannuation funds are actually using these for non-essential goods such as alcohol and other lifestyle items, rather than for emergencies.

Credit and debit card data in a sample of 13,000 people who accessed their “super” under the early release scheme shows that early super access recipients, who withdrew on average $8,000 of the $10,000 maximum, spent AU$2,855 more than normal in the fortnight after receiving the withdrawals. Out of this extra spending an average of AU$157 was spent on alcohol and tobacco.

This data suggest that the increased availability of alcohol through delivery poses the additional threat of draining Australians’ retirement savings.

Sources:

VicHealth: “Cowboy alcohol delivery services choose profits over safety

ABC News: “Superannuation withdrawals spent on gambling, alcohol, takeaway food: report