As a retailer you have to be very concerned about this, although identification usually solves the problem. I've had test purchasing from Camelot and probably test purchasing for alcohol too but I'm not too sure.
Camelot's test purchasing team are good because they come back and tell you how you did. But I'm not sure if the local Trading Standards do unless you fail. It would be beneficial if Trading Standards did come back and tell you they have been in to let you know how you did. That way they know you're a responsible retailer and you know you did well. And that is what it's all about.
There's an unsavoury element in retail that doesn't give a damn about following the age restriction laws. That is a concern because it means that reputable retailers get tarred with the same brush. Because of this you just have to be on the ball when it comes to asking people for their proof of age. You can't take the risk of selling something to someone there's an element of doubt in your mind about whether they're old enough.
James Lowman, Association of Convenience Stores
First and foremost retailers need to provide strong training for their staff and to use clear signage to inform customers about age restricted products. Staff must be trained to always ask customers for ID, even if they look over the legal age.
Retailers need a strong policy to challenge young people for proof of age when buying age restricted products, and staff must make sure they see an appropriate form of identification. These include cares approved by the Home Office's proof of age standards scheme (PASS). These IDs are the only way of making sure you stay on the right side of the law.
The main threat to retailers' policy in this area is complacency. Selling to an underage person can lead to very serious consequences, such as heavy fines or the removal of an alcohol licence.
The ACS provides information and advice on all age-restricted products, and can provide signage and information on the “No ID, No Sale” and “Challenge 21” schemes, as well as PASS-approved ID cards, such as CitizenCard.
Sharon Sawyers, Trading Standards Institute
Staff training is essential, and directions to staff should be clearly updated and recorded. Handbooks should detail buying ages for the products and what staff should do if they think that a customer is too young to purchase the product. A “Challenge 21” policy is good practice here - if the purchaser appears to be under 21 then ID should be requested.
Signage is important in alerting customers to this policy. It won't then come as a surprise when ID is requested. Any refusals should be recorded. Such signs are available through the drinks trade body The Portman Group, through schemes such as CitizenCard and Validate or through local authorities.
If retailers do sell restricted products to minors, both shop and the individual seller may face prosecution. The seller may get an on-the-spot fine, and the premise's alcohol licence can be reviewed. Under new legislation, a “three strikes and you're out” offence for repeated sales of alcohol could result in the premises losing the right to sell alcohol for a period of time.
For more help, see you local Trading Standards department.