Bol.com, the Dutch online retailer, will no longer sell alcohol, explaining that it is too difficult to check whether a customer is of age.
The company, originally named Books Online, is now a subsidiary of Ahold-Delhaize, which owns Albert Heijn and Delhaize supermarkets. Bol started selling alcohol online barely two years ago. The announcement came in a letter sent to alcohol suppliers.
Meanwhile a search for alcoholic drinks on the website comes up dry. A search for ‘vodka’ for example has as its first result the book of that name by Dan Jones. And the Drinks section of the site is headed by a half-price offer on Cup-a-Soup.
The problem, the company said, is that neither the drinks companies who supply the alcohol nor the transport companies who deliver it to customers are unable to ensure that the customers who receive the goods are over the legal drinking age of 18.
“Bol.com has indeed decided to stop selling alcohol for the time being, so PostNL too will no longer deliver these shipments for Bol.com,” said a spokesperson for PostNL, the main contractor for Bol deliveries.
Until now, PostNL has carried out an age check when delivering 18+ packages to customers. The age check also applies for beer, where the legal age is lower than for spirits. Bol also delivers to Belgium.
The site’s decision came as a surprise to the companies that supply the alcohol for online sale.
“The decision seems somewhat premature,” said Xavier Kat, director of wine merchants Okhuysen in Haarlem. “There was no discussion beforehand.”
Okhuysen has been a partner of Bol since it first started selling alcohol online, and despite the surprise of the announcement, Kat told Dutch daily newspaper Trouw, he understands their position.
“Bol.com is a large company, under a magnifying glass, and that will play a role. The last word has not yet been said about a watertight age check when delivering drinks. They are still working hard on that.”
The change will not have a major effect on Okhuysen, he said. “For us it is not a large sales channel and the investments we had to make for it were limited,” he said. But others may be harder hit.
For the moment, Bol declines to comment.
“We are currently in talks with our sales partners,” a spokesperson said. “We prefer to have the conversation with them directly.”