The largest online store in Netherlands bol.com included alcohol in their store for purchase and delivery less than two years ago. They have now announced that they will stop selling alcohol with immediate effect. The store has said they have a problem with the age verification. Since they can not guarantee that alcohol is not delivered to minors they will suspend sales. The inability of online alcohol retail platforms and on-demand delivery services to ensure that neither children nor people who are already alcohol intoxicated can get hold of alcohol – as the alcohol law prescribes – through on-demand delivery is a serious public health and safety concern.
Alcohol policy in the Netherlands not equipped to handle online alcohol sale and delivery
In many countries, alcohol laws are not equipped to handle the rapidly growing online alcohol sale and delivery business because the policies have not been updated to reflect new technologies and business models. This is a gap that Big Alcohol is exploiting as much as they can to maximize profit in the absence of adequate rules and before better regulations will be instituted.
As the World Health Organization (WHO) reports, alcohol harm in Dutch adolescents is already high. Half of the alcohol using teens between 15 to 19 years binge on alcohol. This shows that while the Netherlands has an 18-year minimum legal age for alcohol use, minors are accessing alcohol and engaging in heavy episodic consumption.
The country does not have any regulations on alcohol sponsorships and sales promotions. There are also limited sales restrictions and no health warning labels. Existing alcohol control policies need improvements to cover these gaps, including better regulations for the emerging online sale and on-demand delivery of alcohol.
Online alcohol sale and delivery increases harm
Age verification is one of the major problems of online alcohol sales and delivery. There are many examples from across the world such as in the USA, UK, Australia, Kenya, Argentina and India where online alcohol sale and delivery is causing harm.
The biggest threats of online retail and on-demand delivery driven by the greed of Big Alcohol and investors behind the platforms is that minors can easily access alcohol (as age verification and compliance with alcohol laws are no priority of the delivery services), that people who are already alcohol intoxicated can still access alcohol, that alcohol use at home in front of children is increasingly normalized and that alcohol is now widely and easily available around the clock.
The harm is further accelerated with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. People and children are now more at home. Children are more exposed to adults who have switched to consuming alcohol at home. Contact-less delivery options can be used to access alcohol by children and people who are already intoxicated.