Study Calls For Urgent Regulation Of Unhealthy Home Deliveries


Ordering an online Uber Eats, other food, alcohol or
vaping delivery from the comfort of your couch is hugely
popular – but a new study is calling for urgent government
action, due to concerns unregulated, on-demand, home
deliveries may be damaging the nation’s health.

The
study, co-authored by two recent medical graduates for the
University of Otago, Christchurch’s, Department of
Population Health, is believed to be the first of its kind
to map the geographical spread and types of on-demand
delivery services of unhealthy products across Aotearoa New
Zealand, and the first to assess them at a nationwide
level.

Published in the Australian and New Zealand
Journal of Public Health
, Dr Hannah Miles and Dr Brylie
Apeldoorn’s study took the form of a cross-sectional,
desktop review of all on-demand delivery services in the
country, over a four-week period in April-May last
year.

“The surge of growth in online food, alcohol,
nicotine and vape deliveries has been significant,
exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says co-author Dr
Hannah Miles. “What’s more, it’s expected to continue,
with an almost six per cent predicted annual revenue growth
rate in Aotearoa New Zealand over the next three
years.”

Co-author Dr Brylie Apeldoorn says their
study exposes the need for urgent government regulation to
keep pace with this predicted growth.

“Ease of
technology and consumer demand for on-demand, online, home
deliveries has been fast-paced, despite the fact we
currently have no standardised regulations for these
platforms in Aotearoa New Zealand,” says Dr Apeldoorn.
“Our concern is that without appropriate oversight, home
deliveries have the potential to increase nutritional,
alcohol and nicotine-related harms and counteract government
actions to reduce them, including the SmokeFree 2025
goal.”

The study identified a total of 130 services
offering on-demand, third-party delivery of unhealthy
commodities in Aotearoa New Zealand (excluding individual
restaurants providing their own deliveries to customers);
with 76 percent supplying food; 37 per cent alcohol; 23 per
cent vaping products and 21 per cent cigarettes. A total of
91 per cent had provision for ordering via phone
apps.

Data were collected from the businesses’ web
pages and phone apps, examining their locations, product
availability, times of availability, delivery costs,
promotion strategies and the handling of legal issues
relating to the purchase of age-restricted items.

Dr
Miles says they were surprised at the extent of on-demand,
delivery access nationwide.

“As expected, our ten
largest cities had the most services on offer, but we also
found many available in smaller towns like Tokoroa and
Levin, suggesting rurality is not necessarily a protective
factor for avoiding unhealthy commodities.

“This
raises concerns over inequity of access to health services
from the downstream poor health effects of these products,
especially on-demand alcohol deliveries.”

The study
found promotions are used as a marketing strategy by 97 per
cent of on-demand, online delivery businesses.

“It
appears nearly all use promotion strategies to increase
consumption, with widespread use of price promotions,
memberships and referral rewards.” says Dr
Miles.

The co-authors say of particular concern are
the study’s findings relating to the delivery of
age-restricted alcohol, vaping and nicotine products. While
all companies supplying them had a stated age verification
process, only 87 per cent had birthdate entry, and only 73
per cent had an 18+ age pop-up on entering their websites.
Worryingly too, only 60 per cent appeared to have product
number limits.

The current Sale and Supply of
Alcohol Act 2012
specifies that for remote sales,
alcohol delivery must not occur between 11pm and 6am, the
liquor licence must be displayed on the vendor’s website
and the vendor must take reasonable steps for age
verification.

However, Dr Apeldoorn says their study
found anomalies – adding to their call for urgent
government regulation, to clarify potential legal
liabilities.

“While all services complied with
delivery hours, we found variability in licensing between
services offering delivery of restricted items as a
third-party service and those holding their own liquor
licences, with third-party services displaying the liquor
licences of the primary vendors on their websites, rather
than holding their own liquor licence,” says Dr
Apeldoorn.

“In other instances, the liquor licence
was only issued for the area where the company is registered
– not where it is delivering from, potentially raising
problems in areas which currently operate under liquor
licensing trusts. This raises concern around legal liability
for the delivery of restricted items to underage or
intoxicated people, and is suggestive of a greater rate of
unlawful deliveries among third-party deliverers where the
courier company holds no legal liability.”

The
co-authors say regulation and further monitoring is also
urgently needed to avoid Aotearoa New Zealand following some
concerning overseas trends. In Australia, 13.8 per cent of
online alcohol delivery providers offer ‘buy now-pay
later’ options, while a recent survey showed one-third of
respondents under 25 were delivered alcohol without an ID
check or while they weren’t home, despite codes to prevent
this.

Study supervisor Dr Rose Crossin says this study
is timely, and provides vital baseline data to assist the
team’s future research into the public health and equity
impacts of on-demand delivery services, and the need for
regulation to keep pace with this rapidly evolving
technology.

© Scoop Media

 



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