UK supermarkets to tell delivery drivers not to hand alcohol to drunk people

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Supermarket delivery drivers are to be told not to hand over alcohol to drunk people or children, as drinks companies seek to show they are acting responsibly amid a surge in online drinks orders.

Twelve of the world’s largest drinks brands will unveil the plans on Thursday, drawn up in partnership with UK retailers such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda, as well as the delivery specialist Uber Eats.

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Under the agreement, staff who deliver food and drinks to the door will be trained in how to spot signs of intoxication and check ID if they suspect someone is underage. They will be asked to refuse to deliver alcohol if need be, just as pub landlords are supposed to do if customers have had too much.

Guidance issued to drivers by Uber Eats says: “If you suspect intoxication, please select ‘intoxicated’ in your driver app and politely let the customer know that you cannot complete the delivery.”

The companies will train staff on how to prevent trouble and de-escalate conflict when customers take exception to being denied service.

Employers will also look at ways to ensure delivery drivers are not discouraged from following the instructions via disincentives such as non-payment for deliveries they refuse to make.

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Online retailers and delivery services in other countries will also take part, including HipBar in India, Jumia in Africa and in China.

There has been a steep rise in global online alcohol orders, which increased 40% to $17bn in 2020 and are projected to reach $40bn by 2024, according to the alcohol market research firm IWSR.

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Diageo, whose brands including Guinness and Smirnoff vodka, reported a surge in online alcohol ordering when it released financial results on Thursday. Orders doubled in the UK and trebled in the US.

The results reflect a broader trend in the UK during the coronavirus pandemic. Overall alcohol sales have fallen due to the enforced closure of pubs, bars and restaurants, but sales at supermarkets and online have soared.

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The tougher controls on online drinks ordering are being coordinated by the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD), which represents brands including Heineken, the Budweister owner AB InBev, and Diageo.

“We feel that it is vital that delivery agents feel supported and empowered to refuse delivery to anyone who is intoxicated or underage,” said Albert Baladi, the IARD chair and chief executive of the US-based spirits maker Beam Suntory.

“This partnership enables us to share these tools, where relevant, to support delivery agents in refusing delivery to intoxicated individuals.”