online sales of alcohol further regulated

More and more products are being sold online. This also goes for alcoholic beverages. This is caused by the increasing digitalization of society, but also by the increased difficulty for minors to buy alcoholic beverages in supermarkets, shops, bars and restaurants.

The government is trying to protect minors from alcohol consumption in two ways: discouraging the drinking behaviour and encouraging compliance with the age limit by sellers and parties carrying out the purchasing process for sellers.

The rules for compliance with the age limit laid down in the Dutch ‘Drank- en Horecawet‘ have been found to be inadequate for the online sale of alcoholic beverages. That is why the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport has proposed a bill to amend the Drank- en Horecawet and has drafted an Alcohol Regulation (in Dutch called: ‘Alcoholregeling‘) and an Alcohol Decree (in Dutch called: ‘Alcoholbesluit‘). The bill to amend the ‘Drank- en Horecawet’ is currently being debated by the Second Chamber of Parliament. The Alcoholregeling and the Alcoholbesluit have been presented in draft form for internet consultation until 11 May 2020.

The government aims for the new Drank- en Horecawet, the Alcoholregeling and the Alcoholbesluit to enter into force simultaneously on 1 January 2021. Below we discuss a few interesting points from these proposals.

Age verification system                                                

In the new Drank- en Horecawet, the government introduces a mandatory age verification system, which determines whether the buyer is eighteen years or older before the sales agreement is concluded.

The Alcoholregeling imposes further requirements on the age verification system. An active action by the buyer is required, for example filling in his/her date of birth or ticking a box. Such a box may not have been ticked in advance. The ratio behind this is that the buyer must be aware of the fact that he/she is purchasing an age-related product.

In addition, the age verification system must do this with every purchase. The buyer’s answer may therefore not be stored by means of cookies.

Finally, the age verification system must draw the purchaser’s attention to the fact that the age verification takes place not only at the time of purchase but also at the time of delivery to the purchaser (both at the purchaser’s address or at a collection point). This knowledge should discourage an underage buyer from posing as an adult.

Secured working method

The new Drank- en Horecawet also requires the seller to set up and maintain a working method to ensure that alcoholic beverages are only delivered to the adult buyer at his/her address or at a collection point.

The Alcoholbesluit then stipulates that the secured method of working must describe at least the following aspects:

  • how during the transfer of alcoholic beverages between different parties in the chain from shipment to delivery it is monitored that on delivery the age of the person to whom the alcoholic beverage is delivered is being determined;
  • how it is ensured that alcoholic beverages are only delivered to the address indicated by the purchaser (delivery to a neighbour is not permitted) or to a collection point;
  • how the secured working method is known and comprehensible to the parties involved in the sale of alcoholic beverages; and
  • in which manner the seller conducts an examination at least once a year of the quality and effectiveness of the secured working method and how any shortcomings identified are corrected by the seller.

The secured working method must be recorded by the seller in a document that is up to date and available for inspection at any time.

Supervisory authority and fines

The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (in Dutch called: ‘Nederlandse Voedsel- en Warenautoriteit’) is designated by the Alcoholregeling as the competent authority to monitor compliance with the points discussed above and other provisions of the Drank- en Horecawet.

The Alcohol Decree stipulates that the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority may impose fines of up to EUR 5,440 in the event of violation of the points discussed above. A violation occurs, for example, if the age verification system or the secured working method is not in place or is not being used. It is also a violation if the seller concludes a sales agreement with a person who is found to be underage by means of the age verification system.