Alcohol test purchases: poor results show the limits of the current system

Alcohol test purchases: poor results show the limits of the current system

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Sucht Schweiz / Addiction Switzerland / Dipendenze Svizzera

Lausanne (ots)

The report on test purchases carried out in physical points of sale in Switzerland reveals that, despite the regulations in force, minors were able to buy alcohol illegally in around a third of cases in 2021. Wearing a mask shows the limitations of the system when staff have to self-assess whether a customer is of the required age for the drinks requested.

For Internet orders (retail trade and catering delivery services), the rate of illegal sales even exceeded 90%. In this area, young people have practically free rein to buy alcohol: the legal framework does not yet seem to be adapted to this type of sale.

On behalf of the Federal Office for Customs and Border Security (OFDF), Addiction Switzerland has analyzed the results of alcohol test purchases carried out in 2021. On the positive side, an increasing number of retail chains are putting the results of their internal tests available. The purchase-tests give indications on the respect of the measures of protection of the youth during the sale of alcohol.

Classic test purchases

  • Despite the legal prohibition, beer and wine or hard liquor were sold to young people under 16 and under 18 respectively in 33.5% of cases in total. This represents an increase of 4.4 percentage points compared to 2020.
  • Sales or service personnel have performed a age control (question asked orally and/or identity check) in 72.4% of cases only (2019: 81.7%).
  • We observe differences between types of outlets. Gas stations show the best result in 2021, with 23.5% of illegal sales. Next come restaurants and cafes (32.9%), followed by large distributors and chain stores (around 34.6%). The offense rate is higher in bars/pubs (more than 38.1%).

Online test purchases

A great series online test purchases was also performed for the first time. The results are concerning (and confirm a smaller study conducted by the Blue Cross; report in German). The table looks like this:

  • 93.8% of young people obtained alcohol illegally by ordering on the Internet. Alcoholic beverages were delivered directly to 89% of 13-year-olds by the supplier.
  • If the age was asked in 18.5% of cases during the ordering process and in a little less than 12% of cases during deliveries, alcoholic beverages were delivered to the vast majority of young people even though they responded by telling the truth.

Automatic ID presentment, card reader and internet controls are timely solutions

Currently, sales and service personnel must self-assess whether the customer is of legal age to purchase alcohol; if he has any doubts, he must ask him for an identity document. Before the wearing of the mask, this system was already one of the main problems in applying youth protection measures, in particular in the event of crowds and during demonstrations. The mask made things even more difficult. New solutions are needed:

  • In Finland, all customers who look under 30 are automatically required to show ID to prove they are of legal age to purchase alcohol. In Scotland, this system is applied when the customer appears to be under 25; in the rest of Britain it is widely used on a voluntary basis. Switzerland should also adopt the automatic presentation of the identity card.
  • Technical devices should also be used to facilitate the work of staff; they have already demonstrated their effectiveness elsewhere. Of the card readerslike the application Jalk ID Scanshould be used everywhere, because despite the presentation of an identity document, it is not uncommon for alcohol to be sold in a faulty way in times of stress.
  • Youth protection measures exist for online sales on Internet. Some technologies allow the scanning straight from the ID card on line. To be able to make it the rule of use, the legal framework should be adapted.

About test purchases

As part of test purchases, young people who have not yet reached the minimum age set by law try to buy alcoholic beverages. If asked by sales staff about their age, they are required to tell the truth and, upon request, present identification. If they don’t get the desired drink, young people have no right to insist. If the sale is made, they must give the drinks to the accompanying adult. The managers of the point of sale are informed of the result of the test purchase and invited, if necessary, to apply the ban on the sale of alcohol to minors.

The data processed in this report concerns 8,379 test purchases carried out in Switzerland in 2021. They were made available by 12 organizations – municipalities, cantonal services, companies, associations or specialized bodies – for the evaluation.


Addiction Switzerland
Markus Meury, spokesperson
[email protected]
021 321 29 63

Federal Office for Customs and Border Security (OFDF)
Media Department
[email protected]
058 462 67 43

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