Tesco has said it is disappointed by the decision of a court, which fined it £10,000 for selling a bottle of wine to a 16-year-old in addition to a 28-day ban.
The retailer was fined by Crawley magistrates court after selling alcohol to the boy at its Dobbins Place Express shop in Sussex because it did not have a Designated Premises Supervisor (DPS). This is the first time a supermarket has been prosecuted for not having a DPS under the Licensing Act.
Tesco was fined half the maximum £20,000 penalty and ordered to pay £1,200 costs. "For almost two-and-a half-months alcohol was being sold without proper supervision," said district judge Roger Eade. "It is not good enough, particularly for a store with the standing Tesco has."
A Tesco spokesman admitted the company was at fault. "There was a breakdown in communication between our licensing department and HR when the previous supervisor left," he told The Grocer.
"We are disappointed but accept errors were made. Since the incident we have reviewed all procedures and implemented changes to minimise the risk of this happening again."
Tesco said it has put in better IT solutions to improve communication between its licensing and HR departments.
Although this is the first time a retailer has been fined for not having a DPS in-store, the Dobbins Place shop is one of three Tesco stores to be caught out, in Sussex alone, in a long-term police operation to cut under-age drinking.
All three stores have been banned from selling alcohol for a month after staff were caught selling alcohol to under-age teenagers. Tesco is appealing at least two of the bans.
"We take responsible retailing seriously and train our staff in the Challenge 21 policy," said the spokesman. "If staff are caught selling alcohol to underage drinkers they get fined, not the store, and we send them for re-training."