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Will regulatory changes enable online alcohol trading?

Alcohol trading

Wpis dostępny jest także w języku: polski

Although trading in alcohol over the Internet is unregulated by law, some e-commerce companies decide to introduce alcoholic beverages into their offers. The draft law prepared by the Council of Ministers is to eliminate administrative and legal barriers that often complicate the operation of enterprises. The project, called the “legal shield”, may contribute to the legalisation of online alcohol sales, thus eliminating contradictory interpretations of current regulations.

The project in its current form does not provide for the regulation of e-commerce in alcohol, however, according to the Deputy Minister of Development Olga Semeniuk, the works related to the determination of the legal status of the sale of alcoholic beverages via the Internet are currently in progress. “Legal Shield” is a project that was initiated by the Ministry of Development, Labour and Technology when Jarosław Gowin was its chairman. The draft law is still under discussion and the deregulation committee is analysing numerous ideas. According to Olga Semeniuk, some of the proposed changes may be both objectionable and beneficial to particular groups. This is the case of the discussed sale of alcohol via the Internet. On the one hand, the project will facilitate the operation of e-commerce companies, which struggle with the existing legal loophole, while on the other hand, the proposed changes arouse opposition from circles involved in the fight against alcoholism.

For the time being, it is unclear whether the possibility of e-commerce in alcohol will be included in the final bill. However, the very promise to regulate e-sale is received with optimism by the spirit and beer industry, which has been critical of the new plans of the Ministry of Finance regarding a significant increase in excise tax.

Alcohol e-trade before changes in the law

The lack of specific laws on alcohol e-commerce causes companies to interpret the regulations differently. Growing competition in the e-commerce market contributes to companies, including delivery platforms and dark store operators, deciding to include alcoholic beverages in their offers. Often, however, instead of online sales, customers are only given the option to order products, with formal sales only taking place when delivery is received. One company that has decided to add alcoholic beverages to its offer is Glovo, and the new service was already tested in Warsaw in August this year.

Changes in the law already in 2022?

The sale of alcohol in Poland has for years been associated with unclear regulations, which do not take into account the sale of alcoholic beverages over the Internet. One of the most important acts regulating the alcohol industry is the Act on Upbringing in Sobriety and Counteracting Alcoholism, which dates back to 1982, and the lack of more modern regulations means that the law in force has little to do with the realities of the trade. An attempt to adjust the legislation was made by the PO-PSL government in 2015, but the elections and change of power had the effect of postponing the topic.

In June 2021, a draft law allowing legal online alcohol sales appeared, and its authors were entrepreneurs. In their opinion, the changes in the law may take place at the beginning of 2022 and, as added by Witold Włodarczyk, President of the Polish Spirits Industry Employers’ Association, the project has gained the support of the Minister of Agriculture and many MPs.

The Ministry of Health is against the changes in the law, and as late as April 2021, a similar opinion was held by the Ministry of Development, Labour and Technology, which denied reports that work on enabling the e-sale of alcohol is planned. According to Marek Niedużak, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Development, Labour and Technology, limiting the availability of alcoholic beverages is still one of the most effective tools supporting prevention and solving problems of alcohol abuse.

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