Retail Drinks condemns online alcohol delivery study

20 November, 2019 by Andy Young

Retail Drinks Australia has hit out at a study into online alcohol sale and delivery in Australia by La Trobe University’s Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, saying it bears the hallmarks “of a poorly executed and unreliable study”.

Retail Drinks CEO Julie Ryan has also criticised the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education’s (Fare) for promoting the study saying that its findings were so deeply flawed that reliance on them could only be characterised as irresponsible.

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“The research released yesterday from La Trobe University, entirely funded by a research grant from FARE, bears all the hallmarks of a poorly executed and unreliable study which has clearly been designed with the sole purpose of painting an overly alarmist view of the online alcohol sale and delivery sector,” Ryan said.

She added: “The minuscule sample size of this study alone (528 respondents) is enough to seriously bring its reliability and subsequent findings into question.

“It is plainly impossible for this study to draw valid conclusions about the national state of Australia’s online alcohol sector when it is based on survey responses from roughly 0.002 per cent of the population.

“This study has also unfairly and improperly categorised young Australians as risky drinkers and using online alcohol delivery services to further this behaviour, which is at odds with data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) showing that this demographic is now less likely to drink to excess than ever before.

“The idea that a study as flawed as this one could provide any sort of blueprint for future government policy is utterly ridiculous.”

Ryan noted that sound and well-balanced government policy is derived from a fact and evidence-based approach, and that idealistic and extremist views seeking to create unnecessary panic or alarm were irresponsible.

“In commissioning and funding a study which can only be described as illegitimate, FARE have shown a brazen level of recklessness and disregard for a fact and evidence-based approach towards the development of alcohol policy in Australia.

“Had this study sought to verify any of its own claims against industry data, or any other available data for that matter, it would have quickly discovered the extent to which its claims are entirely false and contrary to what is actually going on in the online alcohol delivery sector.

“By way of example only, the study alleges that the main users of online alcohol delivery services are between 18 and 24 and yet industry retail data shows us that the average age of users of these services is actually over 30, which is based on hundreds of thousands of actual transactions by verified consumers.

“There is no evidence in this study of any illegal supply of alcohol, just baseless and alarmist supposition to support a pre-determined agenda on online alcohol delivery.”

In July this year Retail Drinks launched its Online Alcohol Sale and Delivery Code of Conduct, with signatories to the Code now covering more than 80 per cent of all alcohol sold online in Australia, including some of Australia’s largest online liquor retailers and major delivery companies such as Australia Post and Uber.

The Code covers all points of the direct-to-consumer process involved in online alcohol purchases and deliveries, nationally.

Ryan added: “The Retail Drinks Online Alcohol Sale and Delivery Code of Conduct is being internationally endorsed as representative of best practice in regulation, supporting the collaboration between industry and government to contribute to meaningful harm reduction.

“The ultimate regulatory approach towards the online alcohol sale and delivery sector should be based on significant quantities of industry data on the actual alcohol deliveries themselves, and measured and verified risks, rather than a crudely designed online survey masquerading as academic research.”