Teenagers are deliberately targeting supermarket online delivery services to get their hands on alcohol and not enough is being done to stop them.

That is the warning from test purchase specialist Serve Legal, which has found that supermarkets are not as stringent about asking for ID when delivering alcohol to people's homes as they are when selling it in-store.

Serve Legal director Charlie Mowat told The Grocer that it had begun running test purchases on the big retailers' online operations for the first time this year and found that the percentage of those failing was "significantly higher" than the 22% achieved in-store.

Mowat wouldn't disclose the pass rates for client confidentiality reasons. However, he said, retailers had specifically asked Serve Legal to conduct the tests because they were aware under-18s were trying to exploit the channel. They wanted to gauge the extent of the problem and identify areas that needed to be improved, he said.

So far this year, Serve Legal has carried out 345 home delivery test purchases. The tests involve 18 or 19-year-olds ordering groceries to the value of at least £40 including alcohol.

When the delivery arrives, the test is judged a pass if the driver asks to see ID and a fail if the order is handed over without the shopper being asked.

In terms of in-store pass rates, supermarkets lead the way, c-stores achieving 75% and the on-trade 74%

Commenting on the disparity between the in-store and online pass rates, Mowat said it was easier for processes to go wrong with home deliveries as drivers were not supervised to the same level as checkout operators and did not have the same support from colleagues as shop workers if a situation became tense.

The issue would become a bigger issue for government as more abuses came to light, he predicted.

Last week, Tesco Ireland, Superquinn and a number of off-licences were caught delivering booze to underage drinkers in a television documentary.

Commenting on the Serve Legal findings, aTesco spokesman told The Grocer that its systems were every bit as secure, if not more so, for home delivery as in-store. "To be an online shopper you have to be a Clubcard holder and to get a Clubcard you have to be over 18," he said.

"This is also password-protected, so it's not just a case of someone getting hold of their parents' card. Our delivery drivers get exactly the same training as our store staff. Of course, as with all these things, there is always room for human error."

Putting retailers to the test: underage pass rates in serve legal test purchases
In-store alcohol
Supermarkets: 78%

Supermarkets: 78%

All retailers: 69%

Betting shop: 70%