Attorney General Frey Joins Bi-Partisan Coalition of Attorneys General Raising Concerns About Illegal Online Alcohol Sales

October 22, 2019

Multistate coalition calls for online platforms to crack down on illegal sales

AUGUSTA - Attorney General Aaron M. Frey today joined Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and a bipartisan coalition of 46 state and territory Attorneys General, in calling on Facebook, Craigslist, and eBay to take proactive measures against alcohol sales on their platforms which frequently violate state laws.

"It is illegal to sell liquor online in Maine," said Frey. "Despite that, we are aware that consumers, including minors, are able to purchase liquor through online platforms such as Facebook, Craigslist, and eBay. Consumers should not purchase liquor through these platforms; in addition to the illegality of the sale, it is also concerning that the products sold might be fraudulent or tainted, posing health risks. Companies which provide online sales platforms must take responsibility to regulate their activity to ensure compliance with state and federal laws, and to protect public health."

In the letter, the Attorneys General note that the 21st Amendment invests the right to regulate the sale of alcohol to each state, and points out concerns that unlicensed, unregulated, and untaxed alcohol sales are taking place on digital platforms. Some of the products sold on this platform may be counterfeit or tainted, sometimes with harmful health effects. The consumer may not know that this method of alcohol sales is illegitimate, or that these black-market products could pose health risks.

"We believe that everyone has an ethical and moral responsibility to protect consumers, especially those who are most vulnerable to fraud," write the Attorneys General. "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 letter asks Facebook, Craigslist, and eBay to take the following specific actions:

1) Review the current content posted to the companies' websites and remove illegal postings for the sales and/or transfer of alcohol products.

2) Develop and deploy programming to block and prevent your platform users from violating state law by posting content for the sale and distribution of alcohol products on their websites.

The Attorneys General also invited the companies to join with them to form a working group with stakeholders from government and industry to further explore how to establish practical and effective protocols for preventing illegal alcohol sales.

Supporting documents

Letters to Facebook, Craigslist, and eBay