Retailers are being forced to ask for ID from people buying Christmas crackers in order to avoid facing tough penalties.

Legislation, introduced in August, classifies crackers as a category 1 firework meaning there is an age restriction of 16 and cashiers are required to check the age of those buying them.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has spoken out against the age restriction calling it “daft”.

An EU directive had set the age limit for crackers at 12 however, the Government altered this to 16 for the UK.

“The Government has promised to ease up on regulations on businesses but this one seems to have slipped through the net. The original EU directive that would have put the age restriction at 12 should never have been gold-plated. Now that has happened, it’s vital there is a sensible attitude to enforcement until the Government can reverse this ludicrous restriction,” said BRC director of public affairs Jane Bevis.

“Busy shoppers with a lot on their minds will be understandably frustrated if they are asked to provide ID to buy a box of Christmas crackers. It’s the health and safety rules which have gone crackers and not retailers themselves.”

Most retailers operate a Challenge 25 policy for selling age-related products such as alcohol, tobacco and fireworks, meaning people who look under 25 are asked to prove they are old enough to buy.

Stores face financial penalties and individual cashiers can face fines of up to £5,000 and six months in prison for selling crackers to underage customers.

“We are aware among our members that there are concerns about this legislation.” said a BRC spokesman. 

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Pull the other one (10 January 2010)