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Teenagers & Alcohol

Published: 3rd December 2015

Author: Tanya Surrey, Mactodd

Some harsh remedies when retailers sell to minors

For generations, teenagers have tried every trick in the book to get their hands on alcohol before they are legally old enough to buy it. However, it’s getting more and more difficult to do so. This article looks at the legislation and what happens when a retailer sells alcohol to a minor.

It’s almost three years since the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 came into force with various provisions introduced on a transitional basis. It’s interesting to see how the case law has developed in this time. There’s no doubt that Parliament intended to give a mandate for a more vigorous approach when imposing penalties such as suspensions and cancellations.

Recent cases indicate that the Alcohol and Regulatory Licensing Authority is taking a hard-line approach on sales to minors.

It’s a serious offence The sale of alcohol to minors is considered one of the most serious offences under the Act. Several supermarkets and bottle stores have had their licences suspended in the last few months. Most were the result of police ‘Controlled Purchase Operations’, more commonly known as ‘stings’. In July 2015 the Authority suspended the off-licence held by Super Liquor Anderson’s Bay for 21 days following an incident in October 2014 when two 16-year-olds purchased a four-pack of RTDs. They weren’t asked for identification. The company has paid a heavy price for a staff member’s mistake. While a supermarket subject to a ban on alcohol sales can still trade, there’s little point in a bottle store opening its doors to only sell products such as chippies and cigarettes. The Authority held that while there had been no previous sales to minors at Super Liquor Anderson’s Bay, the company held other licences and had failed five previous stings in the Dunedin area between 2007 and 2014. Meanwhile in August 2015 the Kilbirnie Pak’nSave in Wellington was banned from selling alcohol for five days. Two 16-year-olds had purchased alcohol despite showing the staff legitimate passports that showed they were under age. The checkout operator concerned has since been dismissed from employment. In September 2015 three Auckland Countdown supermarkets, in Sylvia Park, St Johns and Mt Roskill were banned from selling alcohol for between three and five days .

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