Can I sell alcohol over the Internet?
Modern man performs a lot of activity via the Internet. A computer connected to the network is nowadays used to communicate with loved ones, track current events in the country and around the world, often also for work or shopping. Following this trend, entrepreneurs decide to set up an e-shop (run independently or in parallel to a stationary unit). Thanks to this, you can buy many different products over the Internet, often without leaving your home. It turns out, however, that not every type of goods can be the subject of such activity without any problems. A good example of a product whose e-sale may raise doubts as to the legality of this form of distribution are alcoholic beverages. Can I sell alcohol over the Internet? Let's check.
Alcohol sale - regulations
At the beginning of considering whether it is possible to sell alcohol over the Internet, it is worth looking at the general rules regarding the traditional form of such activity. The sale of this type of product was regulated in the Act of October 26, 1982 on Upbringing in Sobriety and Counteracting Alcoholism. The first important issue is the license to sell alcoholic beverages. It is issued by the commune head (mayor, city president) competent for the location of the point of sale, provided that a positive opinion is obtained from the commune committee for solving alcohol-related problems. This, in turn, concerns the compliance of the location of the point of sale with the resolutions of the commune council regulating the number of points of sale of beverages containing over 4.5 percent. alcohol (with the exception of beer) and determining the rules for the location of sales and serving points for alcoholic beverages in the commune.
The indicated authorities issue a permit that may apply to the following types of alcoholic beverages:
This permit is issued at the request of the entrepreneur. Pursuant to Art. 18 sec. 5 above of the act, it should contain:
- designation of the type of permit,
- designation of the entrepreneur, its seat and address, in the case of appointing proxies, their names, surnames and address of residence,
- number in the register of entrepreneurs or business activity register,
- subject of business activity,
- point of sale address,
- address of the alcoholic beverages storage point (distribution warehouse).
Additionally, the application should be accompanied by:
- a document confirming the applicant's legal title to the premises constituting the point of sale of alcoholic beverages,
- written consent of the owner, user, manager or administrator of the building, if the point of sale will be located in a multi-family residential building,
- decision of the competent state sanitary inspector approving the plant. In order to obtain this decision, the entrepreneur must submit an application for approval of the plant and entry in the register of plants subject to official control by the State Sanitary Inspectorate.
Obtaining a permit does not end the formalities. It is necessary to pay a fee for using it to the account of the commune before it is issued. Moreover, in subsequent calendar years covered by the permit, the entrepreneur is obliged to pay the said fee on three equal dates: until January 31, May 31 and September 30.
A business owner who starts selling alcoholic beverages is obliged to pay a fee in the amount of:
- PLN 525 if it sells beverages containing up to 4.5% alcohol and beer,
- PLN 525 if it sells beverages containing more than 4.5% up to 18 percent alcohol (except beer),
- PLN 2,100 if it sells beverages with a content over 18%. alcohol.
In subsequent years, the fee is calculated on the basis of the entrepreneur's declaration of the value of sales of particular types of alcoholic beverages at the point of sale in the previous year.
Other requirements for the sale of alcoholic beverages:
1. The entrepreneur must obtain alcoholic beverages from producers and entrepreneurs holding a relevant license for the wholesale sale of such products.
2. The sale of alcoholic beverages may only be carried out at a point of sale that meets the requirements set out in the resolution of the commune council (eg regarding the location of alcoholic beverages sale points on its premises in relation to other public utility facilities, etc.).
3. The seller of alcoholic beverages is obliged to present the entrepreneur supplying the given point of sale with a proof of payment for the use of the permit by February 1, June 1 and October 1 of each tax year covered by the permit.
4. The activities covered by the permit may be performed only by the entrepreneur designated therein and only in the place specified in the permit.
Alcohol over the Internet - what are the recipes for?
The laws governing the sale of alcoholic beverages do not apply in any way to online sales.This should not come as a surprise, after all, they were created in 1982, when no one thought about shopping without physically visiting the store. The economic reality has changed significantly, but the regulations have not been amended and adapted to it, therefore it is difficult to state unequivocally whether the sale of alcoholic beverages can be carried out in a manner consistent with the regulations resulting from the above-mentioned the law.
According to some officials, relying on court rulings and the position of the State Agency for Solving Alcohol Problems, the sale of alcoholic beverages via the Internet is prohibited under the current regulations. They also indicate that pursuant to Art. 96 of the aforementioned legal act, the sale of beverages with an alcohol content over 4.5%. (with the exception of beer) can only be carried out at specific points of sale.
Article 96 of the Act on Upbringing in Sobriety:
"Retail sale of alcoholic beverages containing more than 4.5% alcohol (except beer), intended for consumption off-site, is carried out at points of sale, which are:
1) specialist stores selling alcoholic beverages,
2) separate stands - in self-service retail outlets with a sales area of over 200 m2,
3) other self-service outlets and other commercial outlets where the seller sells alcoholic beverages directly. "
Moreover, in denying the legality of such a solution, an argument is also raised that when selling via the Internet, it is not possible to verify the age of the buyer or whether he is sober (according to the Act, alcohol can only be sold to sober adults). Doubts are also raised by the place of sale - according to officials, it takes place outside the place of business of the entrepreneur, which is covered by the obtained permit. It is also argued that a website may constitute not only a commercial offer, but also an advertisement for alcoholic beverages.
Alcohol Online - Is It Possible?
One of the interpretations issued by the Ministry of Economy sheds a positive light on the issue of selling alcohol via the Internet. According to the position adopted therein, “the act does not contain provisions on the sale of alcohol by means of direct remote communication. It also does not contain provisions prohibiting the electronic delivery of orders for the supply of alcohol by an entrepreneur operating on the basis of a license ”. However, the negative attitude of officials to such a solution and the risk of losing the license discourage entrepreneurs from selling alcoholic beverages online (this is reflected in the resignation of all chain stores from offering the possibility of purchasing such products in their electronic counterparts).
However, a large number of entrepreneurs make an attempt to legalize the sale of alcohol via the Internet. For this purpose, they use various types of security in the regulations and in the sales procedure itself. In order to buy wine on one of the websites, the buyer is obliged to send a copy of the ID card. In another, it is emphasized that the store does not sell via the Internet - the goods ordered in this way are only reserved and can be delivered to the buyer through a store employee or a third party.
Also the most famous auction site in Poland - allows the sale of spirits. However, certain conditions must be met. Only wine trade is allowed. Moreover, before starting the sale, the entrepreneur is required to present a permit to sell alcoholic beverages and undergo appropriate verification, etc.