The law prohibits the sale of beer and wine to young people under the age of 16 and spirits to persons under the age of 18 (in Canton Ticino, the sale of all alcoholic beverages is prohibited to persons under the age of 18).
The main purpose of the test purchases is prevention, as they serve to make sales staff aware of the ban on handing out alcoholic beverages to young people under 16 or 18 years of age. In the absence of a legal basis, the results of these purchases cannot be used as evidence in criminal proceedings or lead to the imposition of a fine. They may, however, be followed by administrative measures such as the withdrawal of the patent. Test purchases are carried out both by private institutions and by the authorities.
The Federal Customs Administration publishes an annual report on the practice of alcohol test purchases in Switzerland.
In 2019, roughly 20.3 percent of alcoholic beverages were sold to persons under the minimum age set by law.
This represents a sharp decline in illicit sales, with a significant drop between 2018 and 2019, with rates going from to 28.3 percent and 20.3 percent respectively. Compared to 2016, this even represents a decrease of 10 percentage points.
The number of test purchases made in Switzerland decreased from 7926 in 2018 to 6534 in 2019.
Results vary according to the points of sale
As in previous years, mistakenly dispensed alcohol sales rates vary according to the type of point of sale. Service stations show the best results, with just over 10 percent of sales being illegal. This is followed by restaurants/cafés and chain shops and large discounters (about 20 percent). Offence rate is and remains highest at the parties and events as well as the bar category (more than 30 percent).
And the number of buyers
Furthermore, the analysis of the results shows on the one hand that the older the buyers are, the higher the share of illegal sales, which makes relative sense. On the other hand, it also shows an interesting development: groups have easier access to alcohol than individual buyers. For example, a 14 year old alone has access to alcohol in 21.7 percent of cases and in 28.5 percent of cases if he is in a group. The same is true for all ages represented by test buyers (13 to 17 years old).
As a reference for the whole of Switzerland, the test purchasing guide contains many practical guidelines. These allow cantons, communes, cities and non-governmental organisations to carry out their test purchases on an identical basis and to compare the data collected with the results of other authorities. The guide includes the projects and foundations that the Blue Cross, cantonal authorities and prevention organisations have created and that have already proven their worth in the field.
Electronic platform for data entry
Used throughout Switzerland, the www.tkdb.ch platform is based on a Blue Cross model. It allows for coordinated and standardised data entry.
The platform makes it possible to develop questionnaires and select topics according to the various target groups. It can also be used for test purchases of other products such as games or cigarettes. Security is guaranteed because the data is stored in a space reserved for users.