Retail Drinks launches online delivery Code of Conduct

02 July, 2019 by Andy Young

Retail Drinks Australia has officially launched its Online Alcohol Sale and Delivery Code of Conduct (Code), and already has signatories on board who represent over 80 per cent of all alcohol purchased online in Australia.

Retail Drinks CEO Julie Ryan said the primary purpose of the Code is help retailers ensure they are trading responsibly in the online alcohol space. This also means helping to address concerns that alcohol could be delivered and supplied to minors or people who are intoxicated.

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“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,” Ryan 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.”

The Code is voluntary and represents the culmination of extensive work by Retail Drinks in consulting with industry and government to establish a robust framework which governs the increasingly popular online alcohol sale and delivery category.

The Hon Victor Dominello MP, Minister for Customer Service (NSW), welcomed the Code, saying: “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.”

One of the big challenges with the rapidly growing online market is that liquor licensing legislation is state and territory based, but the marketplace is national and the Code seeks to address this key issue.

Ryan added: “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 third-party logistics companies.”

“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.”

Gavin Saunders, Chief Executive Officer, Liquor Marketing Group, said the Code will help independent retailers to be sure they are operating responsibly in the online space.

“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,” Saunders said.

“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.”

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 added that 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.”

Simon Strahan, Chief Executive Officer, Drinkwise, agreed that it was important to have a focus on moderation and responsible drinking in the online market.

“As technology evolves and consumers strive for greater convenience, it is important that new retail practices reflect and support the increasing importance Australians are placing on moderation and responsible consumption,” he said.

“Codes, such as that introduced by Retail Drinks Australia, underpin the importance of standards around both the online ordering and supply of alcohol beverages.”

Endeavour Drinks Group (EDG) is also a signatory to the Code and Managing Director Steve Donohue said the Code will help EDG and other retailers meet community expectations over the responsible sale of alcohol.

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

“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.

Fellow signatory and General Manager of Uber Eats ANZ, Jodie Auster added:

“Uber Eats is pleased to be a founding signatory of the Code.

“Technology has the power to transform the way we think about safety, support and the consumer. On-demand alcohol delivery is an example of an area where Uber Eats believes it is critical for industry to develop a strong framework to make sure consumers are protected.”

A full copy of the Code, details of all the signatories and information on how you can sign up are available on the Retail Drinks Australia website.