In late October of 2019, the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) sent letters to leading U.S. online vendors such as Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook, asking them to undertake certain steps to curtail illegal alcohol sales online. The letter urged the platforms to stop the illegal sale of online alcohol. Unfortunately, social media platforms have allowed the rise of the sale of unlicensed and unregulated alcohol, which can allow for bad actors to cause great harm. There are, of course, arguable more innocent situations such as your brother-in-law waiting in line for 10 hours on Black Friday for a coveted bottle of Rip or Pappy, only to flip the bottle online for a healthy profit. No harm no foul, right? This can be debated in another blog post. There is also the dark side of this secondary, unregulated marketplace where counterfeit, mislabeled, and/or fraudulent products are rampant and sales widespread. NAAG’s position is that, by facilitating the existence of the marketplace, the digital platforms allow for an environment to exist that presents a risk to consumers, including minors, who are exposed to illegal products that may not meet health standards.
The letter, signed in part by Tennessee’s own Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery, III, states that “[w]e believe that everyone has an ethical and moral responsibility to protect consumers, especially those who are most vulnerable to fraud. Self-regulation and self-policing to prevent illegal and unfair trade practices and ensure consumer safety are minimum responsibilities for your respective companies. You have the technical prowess and power to accomplish basic protections against illegal sales.”
The full letter can be found here.
In the letter, the attorneys general asked the vendors to take the following steps:
- Review the current content posted to their companies’ websites and remove illegal postings for the sales and/or transfer of alcohol products.
- Develop and deploy programming to block and prevent users of their platforms from violating state law by posting content for the sale and distribution of alcohol products on their websites.
Tennessee’s own Alcoholic Beverage Commission has been conducting sting operations to crack down on this very class of activity. Going as far to imitate purchasers and meet seller’s in public places for the bust. Beware those looking to make a quick buck from the digital, unregulated sale of booze.
Last modified: November 13, 2019