Legal checklist: Avoiding underage sales

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sales

Legal checklist: Avoiding underage sales
While the code of practice on age-restricted products encourages regulators to give advice in clear, accessible language and work in partnership with operators, there is still plenty more pubs can do to avoid the pitfalls of selling to underage customers.

If alcohol is sold to someone underage, both the retailer and the person who sold the product in the premises can be found guilty of an offence. Remember, it is an offence to sell alcohol to someone under 18, under any circumstances. There are no exceptions to this. Such a sale by any person who works on licensed premises is a criminal offence.

The Licensing Act 2003 places a burden on the sales person to check that the age of the person they are selling to is over 18 years. It also requires them to ask the person for evidence of their age and that the evidence provided should convince a reasonable person.

Here are our top tips on avoiding an underage sale of alcohol:

  1. Ensure that customers are aware of whatever challenge system is operated in your business by displaying explanatory notices at the entrance to the premises, at the alcohol display and where payment is made. Be vigilant on every sale of alcohol. If there is any uncertainty, ask for proof of age.
  2. Make eye contact with the customer and engage with them.
  3. Refer to notices displayed in the premises to avoid conflict.
  4. Ensure that staff are mentored for the first week of their employment by an experienced member of staff and that they make a concerted effort to ask for ID and get used to the idea of refusing a sale.
  5. Check ID carefully and ensure that it falls within one of those categories of approved proofs — for example, a passport or driving licence.
  6. Remember, employing doorstaff is only the first line of defence.
  7. Record the fact of a refusal immediately in the refusals register.
  8. Never sell to a person who is in school uniform.
  9. Check if your till can be programmed to prompt staff to ask for proof of age.
  10. If in doubt refuse the sale.

In theory, the code of practice should produce complete transparency in the way in which enforcement is undertaken. However, don’t rely on regulators to follow the code in every instance. Keeping your own house in order will minimise the risks of an underage sale. Prevention is better than cure.

Related topics Licensing law

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