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Industry associations have criticised the findings of the latest Annual Alcohol Poll Report from the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), saying it presents an “incomplete and misleading view” of Australians drinking habits.

The poll found that a majority of Australians are drinking at home and many are purchasing their alcohol online. It also suggests that many online liquor retailers are not regularly checking ID.

But Alcohol Beverages Australia CEO, Andrew Wilsmore, says that all the poll has confirmed is what is already common knowledge.

He said: “The real question is so what? There is nothing wrong with drinking at home or using a delivery service. In typical FARE fashion, innocuous facts are used to try and create community concern when there is no evidence to suggest that people should be concerned.

“FARE’s poll (conducted in January/February) showing that 61 per cent of Australians most frequent drinking location was the home is actually a decrease on the 64.5 per cent found in a recent Roy Morgan Poll (April 2019-March 2020). “Australians still enjoy socialising with others over a beer, wine or spirit with 49 per cent of Australian enjoying a beverage in their local pub or club; 48 per cent at someone else’s home; 46 per cent at a restaurant; and 31 per cent at events such as weddings, sport or festivals.

“FARE’s report also confirms the trends found in Australia’s most independent and trusted source for Australia’s drinking habits, the AIHW NDSHS, which confirms the vast majority of Australians are drinking moderately or increasingly abstaining from alcohol.”

The Poll examined alcohol retail online and found that of people who had ordered alcohol in the past 12 months, 23 per cent had alcohol delivered at least weekly and almost half (44 per cent) had alcohol delivered within two hours of ordering it.

The Poll also calls to question the practices of online liquor retailers; saying only 38 per cent of people surveyed indicated that their ID was checked.

“Like every other aspect of our modern busy lives, 15 per cent of Australians utilised alcohol-delivery services in the previous 12 months, citing reasons of convenience and value. While not disclosed by FARE, this was actually a decrease from 33 per cent of Australians in their 2019 survey,” says Wilsmore.

“Hysteria over late night alcohol delivery have been shown to be false, with 97 per cent of alcohol delivered before 10pm at night and no deliveries after midnight showing strong compliance with relevant licensing laws.

“It is important to note that under the law, ID is required to be checked if the delivery person believes the person to be underage. To prevent underage consumption, industry-led initiatives encourage ID to be checked if the person looks 25 years or younger which is 16.3 per cent of the adult drinking population, compared to the 38 per cent of the FARE survey who said their ID was checked.”

FARE CEO Caterina Giorgi says drinking in the home is a long-standing trend that has since intensified.

“Retailers are pushing alcohol into homes at all hours, with delivery as soon as 30-minutes. These practices are contributing to riskier alcohol use, and common sense measures such as introducing a two-hour delay between online orders and delivery, are needed to prevent harm,” Giorgi said.

But Retail Drinks’ Acting CEO Michael Waters, says that the Poll was a thinly veiled attempt to tarnish liquor retailers and urges Governments to extend liquor regulation further into Australian households.

“Like clock-work, the anti-alcohol industry have again misleadingly claimed to have developed ‘the nation’s most comprehensive annual survey’ on alcohol consumption amidst a raft of upcoming state and territory elections.

“The headline finding from the FARE Poll – that Australians are drinking more from home – completely ignores the fact that Australians are continuing to make more responsible choices around alcohol, drinking less often and increasingly opting for lower alcohol or non-alcoholic beverages.

“The data presented in FARE’s Poll paints a misleading view of the online alcohol delivery sector, particularly in relation to identification procedures and unattended alcohol deliveries.

“The reality of the sector is that many retailers already know their customers and have previously verified their identity and age through their respective online platforms. It is completely nonsensical to require an adult to provide ID when they have already been verified as over 18.”

Waters also pointed out that the Poll’s finding of 25 per cent of online alcohol deliveries being left unattended also failed to point out the fact that the unattended alcohol deliveries were occurring in the non-same day environment and were being done safely and in accordance with specific instructions provided by the customer.

“In another sign that the Poll fails to understand the sector, its finding that 25 per cent of alcohol deliveries are being left unattended does not make any distinction between same-day and non-same day alcohol deliveries.

“These unattended deliveries are being done safety and in accordance with specific instructions provided by the customer. Further to this, all same-day, unattended alcohol deliveries are specifically prohibited under the Retail Drinks Online Alcohol Sale and Delivery Code of Conduct which captures over 80 per cent of all alcohol deliveries online in Australia.

“All Code Signatories, which includes Dan Murphy’s, BWS and Cellarmasters who are reported in the Poll as being the most popular choices for alcohol deliveries, are all held to a higher standard than any existing regulatory or legislative standard anywhere else in Australia.”

Deborah Jackson

Deb joined Intermedia in 2015 as Editor of National Liquor News and Deputy Editor of The Shout. Since then, she has also worked as the Editor of Beer & Brewer and the New Zealand title, World of Wine....

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