Under age sales

Advice for Traders

This guidance is intended for traders and offers practical advice. It is not a definitive statement of the law.

Legislation prohibits the sale of certain products to persons under certain ages. This table below is designed to guide you through the requirements of the law and assist in compliance.

Under age sales - advice for traders
 Product Sale Restrictions Maximum Penalty

Tobacco products

18 and over

£2500

Offensive weapons/knives

16 and over

£5000 (plus up to 6 months imprisonment)

Fireworks

18 and over

£5000 (plus up to 6 months imprisonment)

Video/Computer games

 

Classification 12

Classification 15

Classification 18

 

 

12 and over

15 and over

18 and over

£5000 & (plus up to 6 months

imprisonment

Volatile Substances / Solvents

18 and over

£5000 & (plus up to 6 months

imprisonment

Lighter refills containing Butane

18 and over

£5000 & (plus up to 6 months

imprisonment

Lottery tickets / Instant Win Card

16 and over

£5000 & (plus up to 2 years

imprisonment

Alcohol

18 and over

£1000 (plus forfeit of licence)

Due Diligence and Reasonable Precautions

Some of the above legislation has defences available, namely that the accused took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid committing an offence.

In relation to video recordings, as well as these defences you will also need to show that the offence was due to the act or default of another person other than the accused. Even where no due diligence defences are available, it is recommended that the guidelines below are followed as best practice.

As most of the above offences are of strict liability, this means that they can occur even when the owner is not in the shop. To avoid committing these offences, it is advised that the legislation be brought to the attention of all staff via regular training. It is important that you can prove that your staff have understood what is required of them under the legislation.

This can be done by keeping a record of the training and asking the member of staff to sign to say that they have understood it. These should then be checked and signed on a regular basis by management or the owner.

Members of staff should be advised that they themselves may be personally liable if they sell to young persons in breach of the legal requirements. If there is any doubt about a person's age, proof of age should be requested.

This could be a passport, photo driving licence or other photo proof of age such as a Citizencard. If there is still doubt, the sale should not be allowed to take place. All refusals should be recorded on a Refusal Sales Sheet or a Refusal Book. Maintaining a Refusal Book will strengthen a case for due diligence.

Although the law does not always specify a minimum age for being able to sell certain goods, the age of the member of staff may be considered in any claims of due diligence.

If you possess an EPOS system, it may be possible to use it to remind staff via a prompt. Alternatively, stickers can be used over certain product bar codes.

Posters showing age limits should be displayed and contain a statement regarding the refusal of such sales. This would then deter potential purchasers and act as a reminder to members of staff.

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