The main objective of test purchases is prevention. They are used to raise awareness among sales staff about the prohibition of providing young people under 16 or 18 years of age with alcoholic beverages. In the absence of a legal basis, the results of these purchases may not be used as evidence in criminal proceedings or lead to the imposition of a fine. However, they may be followed by administrative measures such as the withdrawal of a licence. Test purchases are made both by private institutions and by the authorities.
The Federal Customs Administration publishes an annual report on the practice of test purchases of alcohol in Switzerland.
In 2018, some 7,926 test alcohol purchases were made in Switzerland. Alcoholic beverages were sold in about 28,3% of cases, even though the people who made these purchases were under the minimum age set by law. Illegal sales slightly decreased compared to the previous year.
The law prohibits the sale of beer and wine to young people under 16 years of age and spirits to people who have not turned 18 years of age (in the canton of Ticino, the sale of all alcoholic beverages is prohibited to people under 18 years of age). However, this restriction is regularly disregarded. The results of the test purchases carried out in 2018 prove this again, even if the share of illegal sales decreased by 0,4% compared to the previous year (28,3% in 2018 compared to 28,3% in 2017). In contrast, the number of test purchases increased from 7,225 in 2017 to 7,926 in 2018.
Results vary according to points of sale
As in previous years, the results of the test purchases made in 2018 vary according to the points of sale. For example, infringement rates were 41% at events and festivals and 46% in bars. They are thus much higher than in other outlets such as chain stores (23,2%), which are well below average. Restaurants show a clear improvement from 31,2% in 2017 to 24,9% in 2018.
And the age of the customers
The analysis of the results also shows that the older the buyers, the higher the share of illegal sales. While this share is 6% among 13-year-olds, it is more than four times higher (25%) among 17-year-olds. The most frequent recipients of illegal alcohol are 17-year-olds who shop in groups (41%).
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.