Russia to allow limited Internet sales of alcohol

Poisonous vodkaRussia is planning to relax its stringent controls on the sale of alcohol over the Internet, though some restrictions will remain in effect.

The ban on selling alcohol online was first introduced in 2007, in part to curb rampant alcohol abuse in the country but also in a bid to clamp down on widespread sales of harmful counterfeit and bootleg products. The year before the ban was introduced, it was estimated by the country's interior ministry that counterfeit alcohol was killing 42,000 Russians a year.

The latest proposals would make it possible for consumers to buy liquor online with their bank cards, but only through stores which have been registered to sell alcohol over the Internet, according to a report on the RIA Novosti news wire. The trade will be monitored and deliveries outside licensing hours - i.e. between 11pm and 8am - will be prohibited.

Undercover inspectors will also be deployed to catch unlicensed sellers and clamp down on other criminal elements in the alcohol supply chain, said the news wire, citing Alexandr Romanov, director of Russia's Alcoholic Beverage Committee.

The 2007 ban on online sales is believed to be widely side-stepped via the bundling of alcohol as a free gift with another online purchase and other workarounds, according to RIA Novosti. Russia also banned advertising of alcohol products on the Internet and in broadcast and printed media from January 1, 2013.

The problem of counterfeit alcohol is not restricted to vodka and other strong spirits, with the Federal Service for Alcohol Market Regulation estimating last month that more than half of all beer and beer-based beverages in the country are produced illegally.

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