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Drew Vagg: Alcohol delivery companies enable harmful drinking

Mar 13, 2023

Recent research into alcohol delivery companies has revealed concerning industry practices that need government attention, writes Drew Vagg, HOPE Peer Support Specialist.

In recent days Cancer Council WA and the organisation where I work, Hope Community Services, have shone a light on a growing problem within our already problematic drinking culture.

Alcohol home-delivery companies were in their infancy a few years ago but have become engrained in our drinking culture since COVID emerged. Running out of booze at a party is no longer a problem – any number of companies can deliver alcohol right to your doorstep in under an hour.

The WA Government did try to keep up. In February last year they introduced new regulations to limit the hours of alcohol delivery, mandate ID checks for same day and rapid deliveries, and ensure no alcohol was delivered to an intoxicated person. Delivery drivers were required to complete Responsible Service of Alcohol training.

Good intentions. But as the Deakin University survey commissioned by Cancer Council WA demonstrated, this is not happening in practice.

Concerning practices

Nearly 25% of survey participants have had alcohol delivered to them while were intoxicated, and half of those who used same day or rapid delivery options did not have their ID checked. Alcohol deliveries continue to be left unattended at the door.

As someone who has previously experienced problems with alcohol, I see these alcohol delivery companies as nothing more than services to assist people in making poor and impulsive decisions.

When you are talking about rapid delivery of alcohol, so often you are essentially delivering alcohol to people whose decision making is already impaired because they are already drinking. They can’t make good decisions – when you’re drinking, drinking more always seems like a good idea.

When it comes to people who have a genuine problem around alcohol, the research shows they more likely to use rapid or same day delivery options, order higher volumes of alcohol and to place and receive order while intoxicated.

Armed with this knowledge, the facilitation that these companies offer to vulnerable people actually appears quite obscene.

The fact that you can now use AfterPay to buy alcohol from these companies is appalling.

It feels like asking a dealer for drugs on tick. In my experience, no person asking a dealer for something on tick was ever in any position to pay it back. This is just a bad idea.

And, of course, once you have used one of these companies, you’ll be subject to endless push notifications and email marketing. You get bombarded with reels and videos and recipes for cocktails in your inbox and your feeds. I’ve tried to stop this happening to me. I’ve clicked the link to say this doesn’t interest me, that this is a sensitive topic. It makes no difference.

We know that alcohol is dangerous, we know it affects the development of young minds – but we now have it on lightning-fast delivery.

More scrutiny needed

It is unlikely that these companies and their “services” will be wound back, so there at least needs to be more scrutiny. The Cancer Council has proposed some ideas to tighten regulation – with one proposal being for a minimum two-hour wait time on every delivery. This, I think, makes a lot of sense.

I would like to see strict policing of the RSA standards in relation to these services.  We send officers out to pubs and bottle shops, I think we should send more officers out to check on how these deliveries are being made. The fines associated with RSA breaches are serious and they absolutely should be applied to the delivery of alcohol.

Beyond this I would like us all to stop and consider why it is that we as a community continue to prioritise a person’s right to make money over the right of vulnerable people – including our young people – to be protected from companies who exist primarily to facilitate drinking behaviour that is clearly damaging to health.

Hope Community Services provides programs and services for those concerned about their alcohol and other drug use, or that of a loved one.
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