Underage Alcohol Internet Sales
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - With a few strokes of the keyboard and a click of the mouse, alcohol arrived just days later on the doorsteps of eight underage North Carolinians. "Wine, liquor and beer were all received," says UNC Chapel Hill Research Associate Dr. Rebecca Williams.
The young adults, ages 18 to 20, were part of a recent study at UNC Chapel Hill. They got letters of immunity from the Orange County District Attorney.
The alcohol was purchased from 100 online alcohol sites. 28 were rejected because of age verification. 11 were sent back when no one was home to receive them. 16 failed due to glitches unrelated to age. But 45 were successfully delivered to underage youth.
Williams, who led the study, says "Either the delivery person just took the buyer's word that they were over 21, in one case the delivery person just said 'you're 21, right?' In other cases, they looked at the underage ID and gave the person the package anyway."
Alcohol Internet sales are also risky business for the vendors. They can get in big trouble for shipping alcohol to a North Carolina resident. Under NC general statute § 18b-102.1, "Direct shipments from out-of-state prohibited. (a) It is unlawful for any person who is an out-of-state retail or wholesale dealer in the business of selling alcoholic beverages to ship or cause to be shipped any alcoholic beverage directly to any North Carolina resident who does not hold a valid wholesaler's permit under Article 11 of this chapter."
"It's a felony, class I felony, you can be fined up to $10,000 if you do it," says Mecklenburg County ABC Board Chief Michael Crowley. He is not aware of teens buying alcohol over the Internet in Charlotte. "We haven't had any complaints or any kind of confidential information about it occurring, that doesn't mean it's not. If we find out it is happening, we will address it," he says.
Williams says the study is a wake up call for parents. She says, "They need to know how easy it is for their teens to buy alcohol online."
Most of the deliveries were made via UPS or Fed Ex. One even arrived via the US Postal Service, even though it's illegal to mail alcohol. Williams says UPS and Fed Ex tell her they are working on making sure staff administers their age verification policies.
You can help stop your teen from making online alcohol purchases by keeping a close eye on your ID, which Williams says many teens admit to using to bypass online age verifications. Also, keep an eye on your kids' prepaid debit Visa cards. Williams says those can make it very easy for kids to buy booze online.
To read the entire study, which was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, go to http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleID=1149402