The New South Wales government says that it will soon deploy “covert” secret shoppers to catch out same day alcohol delivery services operating afoul of the law after new reforms were brought in across the state.
In July, Liquor & Gaming NSW phased in a raft of harsher penalties for alcohol delivery providers that committed offences like delivering outside of trading hours and to minors.
With the harsher penalties came a slew of new compliance requirements as well. From July 1, businesses were required to offer their customers an option for self-exclusion, introduce more rigid age verification processes, and ensure that all staff were trained on the responsible service of alcohol by December 1.
Now the government agency says it will put its new reforms “to the test”, and deploy a gaggle of secret shoppers across the state to run compliance checks on the industry’s largest operators, along with other, more “underground” outfits.
Dimitri Argeres, director of compliance at Liquor and Gaming NSW, said his team will roll out the operation in two phases. The first will include an audit of training, data records and suppliers, along with self-exclusion options and ID verification processes.
“Then we will hit the underground,” Argeres said.
“We will be conducting covert secret shopper activities to see how successful we are at buying alcohol outside the legal obligations and whether any laws are breached, all the way to the front door.
“We will be testing those requirements, just like a minor or intoxicated person might do, to make sure that the legislation is functioning as intended and that delivery providers are complying with their obligations.
The pandemic has been a boon for on-demand alcohol delivery in NSW. Market behemoths like Jimmy Brings saw demand spike as much as 23% in the early days of the pandemic, compared to the year before, forcing the company to go on a recruitment drive to meet demand.
Tipple, too, saw a marked uptick in demand at the onset of the pandemic, telling Business Insider Australia that active user growth was on a steady upward trend of 50% each week.
Brick and mortar liquor retailers soon followed suit and poured into the space along with a grab-bag of smaller bars and restaurants desperate to plug the gaping revenue hole carved out by the pandemic.
BWS and Dan Murphy each rolled out delivery programs of their own last year and, later, even Uber Eats moved to enter the mix.
The influx raised eyebrows at Liquor & Gaming NSW before reaching an inflection point last month, when a Sydney man died after ordering three bottles of wine to his home a day. The death triggered an investigation, adding to a wave of regulatory action taken by the NSW government over the last year, both at individuals and businesses.
Last year’s offences varied in nature, but the state government said it was most alarmed by the rise in unlicensed liquor sales and deliveries, several of which it said resulted in a flurry of court-ordered fines and convictions that prompted the state’s reforms.
“There are now many more players on the field and we are reminding all businesses to get familiar with the law,” Ageres said.
“Alcohol can now be bought and delivered in as little as 30 minutes and without regulatory safeguards, the business model is easily abused.
“All delivery provider staff had to be trained by December 1, and we want to see providers updating their websites to reflect their obligations as well as practicing responsible service of alcohol within allowed trading hours.”