Rapid delivery services such as Uber Eats and Deliveroo could be “costing people their lives” by allowing alcoholics to drink to excess without any welfare checks, it is feared.

Twenty four-hour services in Sussex mean that spirits, wine and boxes of beer can be delivered within 15 minutes, sometimes without proper ID and sobriety checks.

The Argus found some people suffering from alcohol abuse can obtain drink at any time of the day or night through services advertising late-night alcohol delivery.

The Argus: Alcohol can be ordered 24 hours per day and seven days a weekAlcohol can be ordered 24 hours per day and seven days a week (Image: Andrew Gardner / The Argus)

Concerns were raised by care workers and drivers that the service is facilitating binge drinking and alcoholism.

Drivers said they sometimes feel pressured to hand over alcohol amid fears for their own safety.

‘She would say ‘I wish they wouldn’t deliver to me”

The Argus spoke to one care worker in West Sussex who said she looked after two people, a man and a woman, who suffered from alcohol abuse and would frequently order drink from Uber Eats and delivery service Beelivery.

She said the woman, who was in her 30s and had previously been in rehab for alcohol addiction, would order “four or five times a day”, sometimes at 3am.

She said when the woman was too intoxicated to get to the door, the alcohol would be left outside without the drivers ever seeing her.

The Argus: The woman said the easy access to alcohol made problems worseThe woman said the easy access to alcohol made problems worse (Image: Steve Parsons / PA Wire)

The carer said: “Her local shops stopped serving her because she was so drunk so she started using Uber and Beelivery.

“Some riders would ask for ID but others wouldn’t even do that.

“If she didn’t get to the door they would leave it by the side of the door. They wouldn’t even see her.

“She was a mess and it was an ongoing problem.

“When she sobers up she would say ‘I wish they wouldn’t deliver to me’.”

The Argus: A delivery rider fills his backpack with products outside the Co-op in North Street, BrightonA delivery rider fills his backpack with products outside the Co-op in North Street, Brighton (Image: Andrew Gardner / The Argus)

She said the woman, who has previously spent time in rehabilitation for her alcohol addiction, would order drink through the delivery services at all times of the day and night thanks to the 24-hour service offered through the apps.

The woman would sometimes wake up at 3am and “order a drink at the press of a couple of buttons”.

The carer said the woman would sometimes “answer the door naked or covered in sick” but would still be handed alcohol by drivers.

The carer also worked with a seriously ill man who would ask staff to buy him alcohol. When they refused, he would buy it on Uber Eats.

She said: “They could see they were delivering to an unwell man. He would order six bottles of wine a day at breakfast.

“It’s going to cost people their lives.”

Alcohol-related deaths have risen every year in Sussex since the Covid-19 pandemic. Figures hit record highs in West Sussex and Brighton and Hove.

Beelivery advertises on its website that it offers “late-night alcohol or booze delivery” which is “delivered to you in minutes without having to leave the house”.

‘I don’t get paid enough to feel in danger’

Under Uber Eats and Deliveroo’s alcohol delivery policies, riders are told they must check the ID of any customer, regardless of age, as well as confirm that they are sober enough to receive their order.

However, The Argus spoke to riders based in Brighton who said they have faced situations where drunk customers have become aggressive with them and put them under pressure to hand over alcohol without checking ID.

One rider said: “The fact is that if I get to someone who is a little bit intoxicated I have to tell them I’m not going to give them the drink.

“They will get aggressive and I don’t get paid enough to take that responsibility.

“I don’t get paid enough to feel in danger in situations like this when you are alone and people are aggressive to you.”

The Argus: Delivery riders wait for a job in BrightonDelivery riders wait for a job in Brighton (Image: Andrew Gardner / The Argus)

When we ordered alcohol to The Argus offices in Bond Street at 8am, cans of beer were handed over within 30 minutes without a given date of birth being checked against a form of ID.

Drivers said they are worried alcohol is so readily available through their service.

One cited an instance where a customer tried to order alcohol to a hospital A&E department at 8am.

The same rider said: “I had to call the police for a welfare check to one woman because she was so smashed at quarter past eight in the morning.

“She would never have been served in a bar. The problem is they can order a lot of alcohol by pressing a button without any oversight.

“At 9am on a Sunday someone ordered rum and beer. The guy was sound because he was so drunk but it could have turned on a dime.

“If they have got their ID I can give it to them. He didn’t and he threatened to hold me to stop me from leaving. He could have been really aggressive.”

Test purchases by the charity Alcohol Change UK found that in more than 70 per cent of deliveries alcohol was handed over without ID checks within two hours of ordering.

A study by the charity showed more than a third of people who ordered alcohol while drunk on multiple occasions had the alcohol placed in safe place and did not interact with their driver.

Just seven per cent of the same group said their driver had refused them service.

But many drivers themselves have expressed concerns over how easily vulnerable people can access alcohol through the services and called for tighter controls.

One said: “The fact that we can get alcohol delivered so easily worries me. It’s worse when people are reclusive about it. There probably are some who are worse because they order it at the press of a button without speaking to people.”

Another said: “Customers know they are not going to get it when they go to an off-licence or a shop but when the driver comes and they show ID they know they can get the drink.”

‘Policy is lagging behind the problem’

Some experts said it was difficult for drivers to know whether customers are intoxicated from a few seconds on their doorstep and the law on alcohol deliveries was not clear.

Dr Hans Crombag, a professor of behavioural neuroscience at the University of Sussex and expert in the psychology of drugs and alcohol, said it was “virtually impossible” for drivers to assess whether someone was sober enough to continue drinking – and “unreasonable” to expect them to do so.

He said: “It’s an age-old problem. I think it’s almost impossible to determine [if someone is drunk on the doorstep of a delivery]. Most people who are intoxicated can hold it together.

“I think to ask drivers to make that determination is really, really difficult and unreasonable.

“It’s the policy lagging behind the problem.”

He said easy access to alcohol at home through services such as Deliveroo and Uber exacerbates the taboo and issues of alcoholism as an isolating condition.

The Argus:


'It’s virtually impossible to know if someone purchasing alcohol online is drunk'

Under the Licensing Act 2003, it is an offence to “knowingly” sell alcohol or allow alcohol to be sold to someone who is drunk.

Alcohol Change UK is now calling for more scrutiny on delivery companies to provide adequate training to their drivers and to check they are upholding proper standards.

Mark Leyshon, of the charity, said: “The licensing legislation needs to reflect how the retail landscape has changed.

“It’s virtually impossible to know if someone purchasing alcohol online is drunk.

“The only person likely to physically see the customer is the delivery driver. But there’s a practical difficulty of assessing on the doorstep whether or not someone is drunk.

"A delivery can take only a matter of seconds so how do you assess whether someone is drunk or not?

“The onus needs to be on the retailers to be doing much better to train staff to recognise signs and take the appropriate steps.

"Staff also need to feel confident that the retailer won't penalise them in any way if they do refuse to hand over a delivery because they're concerned that the customer is drunk."

A Sussex Police spokesman said the force works "in close partnership” with retailers and delivery companies to ensure licensing laws are upheld, including completing test purchases.

However, the force did not clarify whether these test purchases were completed on deliveries using platforms such as Uber and Deliveroo.

The Argus: Hove Town HallHove Town Hall

A spokesman for Brighton and Hove City Council, which is also involved in licensing conditions, said: “Any sale of alcohol must comply fully with the terms of the licence and this is no different with sales which are delivered direct to someone’s home.

“Our licensing team carries out regular routine inspections of premises which hold licences to ensure all staff are aware of the conditions of the licence and fully abiding by them.

“There is also the potential for our team to carry out test purchases, if necessary, which we would look to do if we received valid complaints or information about licence conditions not being adhered to.”

'We take this matter very seriously'

An Uber Eats spokeswoman said: “Uber Eats takes this matter very seriously.

"Any alcohol delivery requires a courier to check the ID of the customer to confirm their identity and age, as well as to confirm that they are not intoxicated.

"We regularly remind couriers of this requirement and any courier found to not be following the correct process risks losing access to the app."

Uber Eats said it has processes in place for concerned families to request a review of a customer's ability to purchase alcohol.

When pressed for information on how to signpost families to their review and support processes Uber Eats did not respond.

The Argus: Uber Eats riders gather in London Road, BrightonUber Eats riders gather in London Road, Brighton (Image: Andrew Gardner / The Argus)

A spokeswoman for Deliveroo said: “We take compliance with the law, as well as our wider responsibilities to customer welfare, very seriously.

"Our policies are clear: riders must complete ID checks for age-restricted products and must not deliver alcohol to intoxicated individuals.

“We provide dedicated training to riders on safely delivering age-restricted products in line with all relevant laws.

"If we receive a report that a rider has failed to meet these obligations, we will investigate and take appropriate action, which may include terminating the rider’s account with immediate effect.

“We conduct mystery shopper audits to check our processes are working and have customer welfare measures in place such as if we receive reports from concerned friends or family we will suspend that customer's account.”

Deliveroo said concerned friends and family could raise concerns through their website.

Beelivery did not respond to a request for comment.