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Starting an online business can be a very successful venture. However, the product you sell will determine how you go about this process and the wide range of regulations that may apply to you. Notably, online liquor stores are becoming more popular as people are increasingly using online delivery services. However, since this is a highly regulated industry, you must comply with New Zealand’s laws if you wish to open an online liquor store. For some guidance, this article will explain whether you can legally open an online liquor store.

Getting a Liquor Licence

To sell alcohol in New Zealand legally, you need to have a valid liquor licence. This certification ensures you sell alcohol responsibly and safely in accordance with the law. There are different kinds of licences, and the kind you need will depend on your alcohol sales. The table below sets out the four different kinds of liquor licences in New Zealand.

On-Licence

This licence is for those wishing to sell their alcohol for customers to consume on the premises, such as bars and pubs.

Off-Licence

You will need an off-licence for selling alcohol to customers to consume off the premises. For example, bottle stores and supermarkets use this kind of licence.

Club Licence

A club licence allows the sale of alcohol to club members and guests on club premises, such as those of a sports club.

Special Licence

This licence is for the sale of alcohol at one-off events such as weddings and festivals and can be for consumption on or off-site.

The District Licensing Committee (DLC) at your local council deals with licence approvals. To apply for a licence, go to your local council’s website, where they will detail the process for applying. You will need to submit documentation about your online store, providing the information they ask for. The licensing process can take a long time, so you should apply well ahead of when you intend to open your store.

Following Licence Conditions

When you sell alcohol from an online liquor store, you are selling remotely to customers for alcohol consumption elsewhere. Therefore, you need to apply for an off-licence. If you are successful in your application, you will need to comply with the conditions of your off-licence, and with liquor laws more generally. 

In particular, you cannot legally sell alcohol to minors. If you do, you can receive fines up to $10,000, lose your licence, and receive other penalties. Therefore, you need to ensure that you have reasonable measures within your online store to prevent minors from purchasing your alcohol. The law qualifies these measures as:

  • requiring users to tick a checkbox confirming they are over 18 upon entering your site; and
  • including another verification checkbox as a step before completing an alcohol purchase.

You are free to implement further checks if you wish, such as age verification upon delivery.

Additionally, you need to portray important information about your licence in a prominent place on your website and your receipts. This information includes the licence:

  • holder’s name;
  • number; and
  • expiry date.

However, as an online seller, you will not need to comply with the exact requirements a physical liquor store would, such as signage requirements and operating hours. You also cannot deliver:

  • between 11 pm and 6 am;
  • on Good Friday, Christmas Day, or Easter Sunday; and
  • before 1 pm on Anzac Day.

Setting Up Your Online Store

There are many options online for setting up your online liquor store, such as building your own e-commerce site or using a template e-commerce platform. There are legal considerations attached to this process, and you will need to take these into account.

In general, you need to make your prices transparent and display any critical information about the alcohol you sell. Ensure that you have the appropriate legal documentation, such as: 

  • terms and conditions;
  • website terms of use; and 
  • a privacy policy.

Note: You will need to set up appropriate payment gateways for customers to make purchases and protect these transactions with adequate cybersecurity measures. 

Other Considerations For Your Online Liquor Store

Notably, other laws will also apply to your trading in alcohol online, such as consumer law and privacy law. Therefore, you need to ensure that your online liquor store also complies with the regulations that these laws set. In particular, alcohol advertising law is very strict, and you can face heavy penalties for advertising alcohol illegally. You cannot:

  • promote discounts higher than 25% off the original price;
  • advertise free alcohol or include deals offering it;
  • promote excessive binge drinking; or
  • target minors with your branding.

Key Takeaways

In New Zealand, you can legally open an online liquor store. However, you can only do so if you comply with New Zealand’s laws around selling alcohol, as well as any others that may apply.

If you need help start an online liquor store in New Zealand, our experienced e-commerce lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0800 005 570 or visit our membership page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I open an online liquor store?

You can legally open an online liquor store as long as you comply with any laws or regulations that apply. For instance, having a valid licence for selling alcohol is one such requirement.

What is the difference between an on-licence and an off-licence?

These are both different kinds of liquor licences for selling alcohol. An on-licence applies to businesses selling alcohol for customers to consume on the premises. On the other hand, an off-licence applies to businesses selling alcohol for customers to drink elsewhere.

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