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More and more businesses are starting to sell their goods online, including alcohol businesses. Vineyards and breweries can use the internet to reach customers across the country, which is especially useful if you are in a remote location. However, you still need to observe alcohol sale laws whether you are operating online or in person. This is particularly true because alcohol is an age-restricted item, so you need to be careful not to sell to minors online. For some guidance, this article will go through four mistakes to avoid when selling alcohol online.

1. Failing to Have an Off-Licence

Any business that sells alcohol needs to have an appropriate liquor licence to do so. Selling alcohol online means that you classify as a ‘remote seller’, so you need to have an off-licence to sell to customers. An off-licence is for businesses selling alcohol that customers will consume elsewhere. This applies whether you only sell alcohol online or sell online in addition to selling from your physical store.

Other kinds of remote sellers include businesses selling alcohol over the phone or through mail catalogues.

Therefore, you need to ensure you apply for or have a current off-licence before selling alcohol online. If you do not, you are breaking the law. If you only sell alcohol online, you do not need to comply with the: 

  • signage requirements for a physical store; or
  • restrictions for hours of business, which means you can sell at any time of the day.

However, you still need to have a manager. They do not need to be on duty at all times. You also must display a picture of your licence in a prominent place on your website and make clearly visible the:

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

Additionally, you need to have this information on your receipts.

2. Selling Alcohol to Minors

Just like a physical liquor store, you cannot sell alcohol to minors. The law has specific requirements your website must follow to prevent this. These are asking:

  • a website visitor to confirm that they are over 18 when they visit your site with a checkbox; and
  • them to confirm again with a checkbox declaring they are over 18 before they complete a purchase.

The law deems these as reasonable measures to prevent the sale of alcohol to people under the age of 18. You may use a confirmation of a user’s date of birth instead of a checkbox as well, or include this confirmation as part of your website’s terms and conditions.

If you sell to a minor, you can receive fines up to $10,000 and lose your licence. Therefore, you may decide to implement more extensive measures to confirm a customer’s age. There are various identity verification services you may be able to take advantage of, but ensure you are aware of your privacy obligations when you use these services. You can also include in your contract with your courier that they can only leave packages with someone over 18 who has signed for the parcel.

3. Irresponsibly Promoting Alcohol Consumption

On top of general advertising law and regulation, you need to be careful about how you advertise and promote your alcohol sales online. You must not: 

  • encourage excessive consumption of alcohol;
  • promote or advertise discounts of 25% or more below the usual price;
  • include free alcohol as a part of deals, such as buy two get one free deals; and
  • advertise alcohol in a way that would appeal to minors.

You may use social media for advertising your online business, which means you have limited control over who can see your advertisements. Minors on social media are likely to see your advertisements, so you need to be careful not to appeal to that group. You can apply to the Association of New Zealand Advertisers to pre-vet your advertisements to ensure you comply with the law.

4. Failing to Comply With Delivery Requirements

When selling alcohol online, you do not have to meet the same hours of operation as a physical business. However, there are timing requirements for delivering alcohol. Specifically, you cannot deliver alcohol:

  • between 11 pm and 6 am;
  • at any time on Good Friday or Christmas Day; 
  • on Easter Sunday, unless you make wine on the premises you sell from; and
  • before 1 pm on Anzac Day.

Ensure that your courier knows this, and put this in your contract with them.

Key Takeaways

Online business is increasing, and alcohol sales are no exception to that. However, you need to ensure you still comply with the law when you sell alcohol online. You should apply for an off-licence after making sure you meet the requirements for one. Make sure to implement steps on your website to ensure you do not sell to minors and consider more extensive measures as well. You also need to observe delivery and advertising requirements. If you would like more information or help with selling alcohol online legally, contact LegalVision’s regulatory and compliance lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I sell alcohol online legally?

You can, but you need to have an off-licence to do so. You are a remote seller, so you need to comply with the requirements that the law imposes.

Do I need to verify my customers’ age when I sell alcohol online?

You legally need two checks to verify a customer’s age when you sell alcohol online. First, a checkbox when they enter the site confirming they are 18 or over. Second, another checkbox confirming they are 18 or over at the time of purchase.

What do I need to know about advertising alcohol online?

When you advertise for your online alcohol sales, you need to comply with alcohol advertising law. You cannot promote excessive binge drinking or cater your advertisements towards minors.

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