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Age Restricted Sales

Age Restricted Sales

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 31 August 2010

Business sets out ways to tackle underage sales

Retailers, who spend £20m per year on preventing sales to underage people of alcohol, tobacco, spray paint, knives, fireworks and other age-restricted products, have set out their ideas in a report published today (31 August).

The Age-restricted Products Review Group, representing major businesses, trade associations and professional bodies (with around 250,000 retail outlets), has made 12 recommendations in Better Regulation of Age-restricted Products: A Retail View, following an independent investigation for LBRO, the experts on better regulation.

The report's authors want to see the law on underage sales simplified and made more effective, with the current 18 separate pieces of legislation unified, compliance partnerships between local regulators and trade associations; closer working on the wider underage sales agenda with local businesses; LBRO's primary authority scheme extended to cover age-restricted products; shared responsibility for under-age sales amongst business, young people and adults who buy on their behalf; and a binding code of practice to improve the effectiveness of test purchasing.

Retailers have identified age-restricted sales as their number one concern within local regulation. The review group, a sub-group of LBRO's Business Reference Panel, was led by Geoffrey Budd MBE, the former Company Secretary of DSG International and a long standing Chair of the CBI Consumer Affairs Panel

He said: "Retailers are keen to play their part in denying children access to age-restricted products such as alcohol or knives, but their role can be more effective if retailers are seen as part of the solution, rather than the problem.

"Retailers take their responsibilities to their communities very seriously and I believe the sector is entitled to be embraced as part of the 'front line' in this campaign. What the law currently requires of them is often hard to deliver."

The report says retailers want to stop underage sales but find the regulations brought in to tackle this issue place huge burdens on their business.

Jennifer Brown, Public Affairs Manager for the Association of Convenience Stores, said: "Our members are all too aware that sales of restricted products to youths can create anti-social behaviour problems which harm young people and communities. However, the current regulations brought in to tackle underage sales are often disproportionately focused on the shop and those that work there and fail to acknowledge good work done by responsible firms to keep these products out of the hands of young people.

"Effective enforcement has to encompass actions not only against businesses but against the individuals that willingly buy and supply alcohol to those underage and the young people themselves that seek to obtain products by deception. This report points to a fairer and more holistic approach to underage sales enforcement. "

And Rebecca Abbott, Information Manager with the BHF:BSSA Group, said: "In the context of changes underway to reform licensing, it is an apt time to consider how all age-restricted products are controlled and how the system of regulating these products can be improved to protect young people and communities and make life easier for business."

British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said: "Retailers have an excellent record on preventing under-age sales of restricted products, such as alcohol. They are part of the solution to under-age sales not part of the problem.

"We're keen to work more closely with local authorities on joint initiatives to tackle the root causes of young people gaining access to regulated goods. The LBRO report points the way to a more joined up approach."

LBRO made this report possible, by bringing business together as one voice on the subject for the first time, as part of its drive to create the right conditions for changes that deliver prosperity and protection.

The public body accountable to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will now prepare a response which will be sent to Government, alongside the report, for consideration.

LBRO Chairman Clive Grace said: "Age-restricted sales are a continuing focus of public and media concern, and often for good reason given the damage which can follow from inappropriate access to these products by young people.

"It is very important that sellers comply with the relevant regulations, yet those regulations are numerous, complex, and often experienced by businesses as unnecessarily burdensome. It is quite possible that the regulatory requirements could be considerably simplified whilst increasing the level of compliance, and also producing better social and community outcomes - a powerful 'win-win' for business, communities, and regulatory reform."

The full report can be viewed at

Members of the Review Group
Chairman: Mr G. D. Budd MBE (former Company Secretary of DSG international and a long standing Chair of the CBI Consumer Affairs Panel)

Representative bodies Association of Convenience Stores (ACS),
British Retail Consortium (BRC),
BHF-BSSA GROUP Incorporating the British Hardware Federation and the Cookshops & Housewares Association
National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN),
British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).
Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA),
Retail of Alcohol Standards Group (RASG),
TSI Society of Outside Local Authority Members (SOLAM),
The Petcare Association,

Individual businesses ASDA
Home Retail Group
The Co-operative Group

The membership of the group represents in the region of 250,000 retail outlets.

The review has also been supported (on a without cost basis) by:
Gosschalks Solicitors
Margetts and Ritchie Solicitors
Pinsentmasons LLP


To make the law simpler and fairer through deregulation:

1. The current piecemeal legislation should be consolidated into a single piece of legislation to provide simplicity and greater consistency across the product categories with standardisation of offences and defences. This would provide a framework by which any new controls can be easily implemented in a consistent way to ensure future coherent development of the law. The legislation should include a binding code of practice (see recommendation 10)

2. A simple general due diligence defence should be available for retail employees across all product categories to provide fairness where a genuine and reasonable mistake in judging age has been made.

3. In order to provide a better deterrent all persons aged 14+ should be liable to a risk of sanction for deliberately attempting to obtain products to which they are not legally entitled.

4. Offences of buying on behalf of a young person, and conversely for a young person asking an adult to purchase on their behalf, should apply to age-restricted products having no justifiable use by the young person.

Recognising and supporting business compliance:
5. The compliance efforts of businesses should be fully taken into account when determining enforcement priorities and approaches.

6. Local licensing conditions should not be used to gold plate legal requirements by making "voluntary practice" mandatory as this undermines trust and deters voluntary initiative.

7. Enforcers should be encouraged to be more active in seeking opportunities to work with business and the communities in which they operate to tackle the wider agenda surrounding age-restricted products.

8. The Primary Authority system should be extended to cover all age-restricted product legislation including alcohol. Inspection plans should take retailer 'self testing' and other compliance activity fully into account.

9. Enforcers should be encouraged to develop partnerships with sectoral trade associations to provide a better communication channel to support compliance by their members including the dissemination of 'assured guidance' on which businesses should be entitled to rely.

Consistent, fair and effective enforcement:

10. LBRO should coordinate development of a binding code of practice dealing with all aspects of the use, conduct, prompt notification and follow up of test purchasing exercises with input from local authorities, police, business, government departments and consumers. The code should reflect the principles of good enforcement as set out in the Regulators Compliance Code and the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006.

11. To support business compliance efforts, businesses should always receive prompt notification of the results of any test purchasing carried out in their premises.

12. Test purchasing where lying or use of other deceptive is contemplated should only take place in the most exceptional circumstances and require specific independent authorisation.

The Local Better Regulation Office (LBRO) helps business to save money and prosper by ensuring their voice is heard in the creation and local delivery of the rules and regulations they're required to follow. It is a catalyst within the regulatory landscape; using its unique relationships to energise all those involved in making local regulation work for Britain. LBRO creates the conditions for cutting red tape for UK business and providing the right level of targeted protection for consumers, workers and the environment. Its area of responsibility covers environmental health, trading standards, fire safety and licensing. Following the commencement of the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 on 1 October 2008, LBRO operates as an executive non-departmental public body, accountable to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills through the Better Regulation Executive. LBRO is governed by an independent Board, has a staff of around 25 and is based in central Birmingham. Our remit covers the whole of the UK and we liaise closely with the devolved administrations to ensure our work in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is appropriate.

For further information please visit

Media enquiries to Jo Barker or Roland Curtis.

Local Better Regulation Office
The Axis, 10 Holliday Street, Birmingham B1 1TG
0121 226 4000


Local Better Regulation Office

Jo Barker.
Phone: 0121 226 4019

Roland Curtis
Phone: 0121 226 4038
Mobile: 078 999 45341

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