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Published on March 9th, 2016 | by Dean Carr


Selling alcohol online UK law

Selling alcohol online can be a bit of a minefield. Every day we get calls from individuals who are looking to set up a business in the UK involving selling alcohol or alcoholic products. Lots of small cottage style industries who want to sell hampers or gift sets containing alcoholic products can not believe what is involved and why they can’t do so from home!
We will try and explain this in simple terms in the following few paragraphs;

Firstly alcohol is a highly regulated product in the UK and requires to be sold under a premises licence, secondly alcohol sales need to be monitored by the individual named on the premises licence who holds their own personal alcohol licence. This person is known as the Designated Premises Supervisor and is the person responsible for the lawful retaining of these products.

Obtaining your personal licence
To gain a personal licence applicants need to undertake a one day training course on relevant licensing Act. Once they have passed their examination and received their qualification they can apply to their local council for a personal alcohol licence. Applicants must be over 18 years and have no relevant criminal convictions.

Premises licence
The next thing individuals looking to apply need to be aware of is that a premises licence can not be granted on a domestic address, as the application fee and licensing process is based upon the rateable value of a business premises. Farm buildings or out buildings in close proximity to a domestic dwelling which have the relevant planning permission as commercial premises for retailing may be used. Ultimately any fixed commercial premises could be used to obtain a premises licence, this could include a warehouse, shop, office with storage or other.

Licensing schedule
Applicants must produce a licensing schedule showing how they intend to promote the four licensing objectives and operate their online business as responsible retailers of alcohol. This forms part of the application process for a premises licence and will include times, age verification and other key factors.

Selling alcohol online UK law
Websites selling alcohol or products which contain alcohol also need to be compliant with the law. There is guidance set out under section 182/10.52 of the licensing Act 2003. This guidance states the following; Licence holders should consider carefully what steps they are required to take to comply with the age verification requirements under the 2003 Act in relation to sales of alcohol made remotely. These include sales made online, by telephone and mail order sales, and alcohol delivery services.

This will generally include an over 18 declaration on any website selling alcohol online at the point of order, however the delivery process and age verification at the point of delivery is more tricky as section 151 (Delivering alcohol to children) of the licensing Act 2003 under 151/6 states no offence is committed if the alcohol is delivered to a place where the buyer or, as the case may be, person supplied lives or works.

Delivering products
Delivery of alcohol by third parties such as couriers can also be a very grey area as a Licensing Committee would not be able to impose conditions on a premises licence to a third party involved in the delivery process! Using your own delivery personal may resolve the age verification issues at point of delivery as mentioned in guidance set out under section 182/10.52 of the licensing Act 2003. But this guidance would only work with a local delivery company surely and not for clients who intend to deliver their products nationwide or world wide.

Age Verification
There is also a mention under revised guidance set out under section 182/10.52 of the licensing Act 2003, to retailers adding age verification software to their websites again this could be another grey area as age verification software is offered via credit reference agencies, no credit, no history. After considerable research on age verification software we found that this could be very costly for a retailer to implement.

Application process
Once an application for a premises licence has been made to a licensing authority it must also be served upon all Responsible Authorities within that council area, this will generally include the Police, Trading Standards, Child Protection Unit, Planning, Fire Officer, Environmental Health. The application will also need to be advertised both at the premise for 28 days and in a local newspapers public notices section.

Hearings and objections
Once a premises licence has been applied for and advertised in the correct manner anyone can make an objection including local businesses, neighbours and any responsible authority. If an objection is received by the licensing authority then a licence hearing will be held before the Licensing Committee. A Licensing Committee can reject an application, grant the licence or grant a licence with conditions attached.

The 2003 licensing Act requires that licensing conditions should be tailored to the size, type, location and characteristics and activities taking place at the premises concerned. Conditions should be determined on a case-by-case basis. Licensing Committee’s must take proportionality into account when considering an application for an online business. They must also ensure that the licensing objectives are being fully promoted by the applicant.

If you are serious about starting an online alcohol business and have considered the above facts then why not talk to the licensing team at PLT (Tel:01242 222188) who specialise in these types of licence applications. Please be mindful that most responsible authorities are opposed to keeping the party going or late night delivery services and these may be harder to licence than next day delivery services.
Link to: Revised Guidance issued under section 182 of the Licensing Act 2003

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About the Author

Dean Carr

Dean has been involved in alcohol licensing for over 20 years and has helped many independent retailers and corporate clients obtain a licence to sell alcohol or offer late night refreshment, regulated entertainment from all sorts of premises. Dean writes articles for various trade related blogs and is currently Managing Director of the PLT group of companies who run APLH and SCPLH personal alcohol licence courses nationwide. You can contact Dean or a member of his expert licensing team on: 01242 222 188

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