Quick solution to online underage liquor sales

CHRIS GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 06/12/2013
gavin holmes
CHRIS HILLCOCK
NOT HAPPY: Gavin Holmes wants action on internet alcohol sales.

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The alcohol industry could stamp out online underage sales overnight by adopting a Department of Internal Affairs initiative.

Gavin Holmes hopes the RealMe identity service, developed by Internal Affairs in conjunction with New Zealand Post to securely prove a person's identity remotely, would stop minors buying alcohol online.

"The solution to the industry's problem is so blindingly simple," Mr Holmes said.

"There will be a minimal cost to them for the administrative time and I'm sure the short-term commercial disadvantage would be more than offset by the goodwill of an advertising campaign announcing they are exercising their corporate responsibility."

This week Mr Holmes called on The Mill to overhaul the security of its online store after it sold his 17-year-old son a $29.99 bottle of Red Square Vodka. All the teen needed to do to secure the sale was click a box which said he was over 18 - twice.

The Mill general manager Bevan Seddon denied any wrongdoing and said parents needed to be accountable for the actions of their children.

It is is free to set up a RealMe account at a PostShop, where official documents such as birth certificates, passports and driving licences are used to verify the identity of a user, including their age.

Internal Affairs spokesman Michael Mead said it was designed for any online transaction which required the buyer or user of a service to prove their identity, including their age.

Last month, TSB Bank became the first private sector organisation to use RealMe.

The fledgling scheme is in line with Mr Holmes' suggestion to The Mill that online shoppers register at a physical store, with several identifying documents, in order to prove their age before they can make their first purchase on the internet.

"Access for the public is free and the benefit to the public is that this system isn't retailer specific but can be used globally which is preferable to my initial suggestion of a retailer website specific proposal," Mr Holmes said.

"The other benefit is that PostShops are probably more numerous than The Mill's retail outlets, making registration much easier.

"Someone needs to be courageous and be the first retailer to take responsibility for selling products that have an age threshold, be it alcohol or tobacco.

"We were hoping that would be The Mill. If we have to wait for the entire alcohol lobby to agree to deal with this issue, we could probably have had it regulated for."

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The Mill Retail Holdings chief executive officer Jeremy Livingston told Mr Holmes he planned to meet other retailers to come up with a solution.

He did not return calls or emails from the Waikato Times but texted to say he had been "locked away in strategy sessions" and had "nothing to add".

Mr Holmes complained to Waikato police, but the matter has been handed over to New Plymouth police who will be conducting inquiries with The Mill.

"In researching the issue I came across a November 2006 article that raised all the same points that we have issues with, so nothing has changed in the seven years since then."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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