Underage sales

Legal requirements

We want to prevent children becoming dependent on alcohol or tobacco because it harms their health and leads to anti-social behaviour. It’s illegal to sell these products to people under 18 years old. Trading standards and the police can enforce these laws. They can work separately, but often work together. Similar provisions apply to knives, fireworks e-cigarettes and e-shisha.

Selling alcohol, tobacco, knives, fireworks,e-cigarettes and e-shisha to someone under 18 is a crime.

You can be prosecuted if you serve the child or own the shop.

Proof of age

If you sell alcohol, you must operate an age-verification policy. Though it is not required for selling other age-restricted products, the principles are still useful. 

At the minimum, this requires you to ask for proof of age if there is doubt that the customer is 18. But we recommend you build in room for error. Make it policy that, if staff are not sure that someone is at least 25, they ask that person to prove they are old enough to buy alcohol. This is generally referred to as ‘challenge 25’.

Some companies set a different threshold, and that should be followed if it’s company policy. However, an age should always be set for staff to work toAlso, for alcohol, if your licence conditions set a specific age for the policy, you must work to that.

The proof of age should include a photo, date of birth and a holographic or ultra-violet device. The cards marked with the PASS logo use such a hologram, and staff should be able to recognise these. Photo driving licences and passports may also be used.

Staff training is essential to operate this policy. You may also consider using a refusals book, where staff are required to record when they refuse a sale: recording the date, the type of product and why it was not sold. This has several virtues: it shows that the policy is followed, it enables a manager to identify staff who do not seem to refuse such sales, and helps reinforce the importance of doing so. It is recommended that managers record when they review the register.

It’s also a good idea to put up signs for customers indicating that you use such a policy.  Please contact us if you need more information or help implementing a proof-of-age scheme.

Once again, if you sell alcohol and your licence conditions specify that you use such measures, you must do so.

Training from trading standards

We do prosecute retailers for selling knives, tobacco or alcohol to children. But we also want to help you avoid making that mistake in the first place. We run training in practical measures that help you to stay on the right side of the law. The sessions are structured to be suitable for both employees and managers and are open to all. Feedback from people attending similar sessions previously has been excellent. 

The dates are as follows:

  • Wednesday 23 January @ 1.30pm 
  • Tuesday 19 March @ 1.30pm 
  • Thursday 25 July @ 10.30am
  • Monday 16 September @ 1.30pm
  • Tuesday November 26 @ 1.30pm

The sessions can be used as part of a training programme for employees and will:

  • offer staff and managers practical advice on how to avoid underage sales
  • help them to understand the potential consequences of a sale for themselves and the business
  • explain how confrontation can be minimised.

The training costs (payable in advance)

  • Part 1 (suitable for employees) - £37.50 + VAT (£45) 
  • Whole course (suitable for managers and anyone left in charge of the business) - £54.17 + VAT (£65)
  • Subsequent places taken by the business are available at the discounted prices of £12.50 + VAT (£15) / £16.67 + VAT (£20).  

Contact us on 020 8753 1081 or trading.standards@lbhf.gov.uk to find out more.

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