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
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
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
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
"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
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
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 www.lbro.org.uk/publications-external-research.html
NOTE TO EDITORS
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
Representative bodies Association of
Convenience Stores (ACS),
British Retail Consortium (BRC),
BHF-BSSA GROUP Incorporating the British Hardware Federation
and the Cookshops & Housewares Association
Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN),
British Beer and Pub
Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA),
Retail of Alcohol Standards Group (RASG),
TSI Society of
Outside Local Authority Members (SOLAM),
Individual businesses ASDA
Home Retail Group
The membership of the group represents in the region of 250,000
The review has also been supported (on a without
cost basis) by:
Margetts and Ritchie Solicitors
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
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
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 www.lbro.org.uk
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