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THL and Valvira on alcohol home delivery: Legislation and supervision must be designed responsibly

Pia Mäkelä, Research Professor, PhD, Adjunct Professor
Pia Mäkelä, THL

27.02.2024 - The online sale and home delivery of alcoholic beverages present new challenges for the control of alcohol retail sales and adherence to responsibility principles, assess THL and Valvira. Effective official and self-regulation of age limits and the prohibition of sales to intoxicated individuals are at the core of responsible alcohol home delivery, according to THL and Valvira.

The government program of Prime Minister Orpo has outlined that the online sale and home delivery of alcoholic beverages will be enabled, ensuring the control of age limits. To aid in decision-making, THL and Valvira have prepared a report on the home delivery of alcoholic beverages for the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

The online sale and home delivery of alcoholic beverages are relatively new phenomena in the global alcohol trade. Experience from around the world has accumulated regarding the challenges of home delivery.

"The main problem of responsible sales and sales control in home delivery is related to checking age limits. Based on population surveys, the current age limits for alcohol sales have strong support in Finland," states Research Professor Pia Mäkelä from THL.

A challenge that has emerged in the online sale of alcoholic beverages is the connection between ordering and home delivery to the large amounts of alcohol consumed on a single drinking occasion or over a longer period.

"Home delivery may increase the harms of alcohol use in many different ways. For example, it is known that more money is spent on alcohol purchases in online stores, and fast deliveries can prolong drinking sessions. Home delivery can also increase the alcohol use of those suffering from alcohol problems, as obtaining alcohol becomes even easier," describes Mäkelä.

In Finland, the purpose of the Alcohol Act is to reduce the harms caused by alcohol to its users, other people, and society as a whole. This also poses a challenge to allowing home delivery.

"Home delivery undermines the realization of the purpose of the Alcohol Act, i.e., reducing alcohol-related harms. At the doorstep, the age and intoxication state of the customer are much more likely to go unchecked than in a store," says Group Manager Kari Kunnas from Valvira.

"If alcohol home delivery is allowed, it must be made licensable to give authorities at least some ability to monitor the activity and prevent harms," Kunnas continues.

Key recommendations from THL and Valvira for organizing responsible alcohol home delivery:

  • Require that the home delivery of alcoholic beverages is subject to licensing.

  • Provide authorities with effective means to monitor home delivery operations, such as the ability to conduct test purchases and impose consequences for violations.

  • Require that license holders and staff involved in the online sale and delivery of alcohol complete training on responsible alcohol sales.

  • Age must be verified both at the time of purchase and upon delivery, and delivery must not be made unless it is in person.

  • The maximum hours for home delivery should not exceed the sales hours of retail stores.

  • Ensure communication between parties:

  • The driver has information about the alcohol content of the package being delivered.

  • Websites inform the buyer that drinks will not be delivered to underage or intoxicated individuals.

  • Authorities receive information from entities making deliveries about, for example, home deliveries, age verification checks, and refusals to deliver.

  • To prevent the prolongation of alcohol consumption situations and purchases made while intoxicated, it should be considered whether the rapid delivery of alcoholic beverages should be possible.

  • Adherence to sales bans should not indirectly lead to income losses for the delivery personnel.

  • Careful consideration is needed regarding which locations alcoholic beverages can and cannot be delivered to and whether it is necessary to regulate the maximum quantities of deliveries over the short or long term.

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