Prevention of Underage Sales

Mandatory Conditions

The Licensing Act 2003 introduced mandatory conditions on every alcohol licence, including one that requires all premises to have a policy in place in order to prevent underage sales. While there is a minimum policy for premises to adopt, you can go further in order to ensure that your business has the most robust procedure in place to comply with licensing law, protect your staff and protect your business from a licence review or other action by the police or licensing authority. This guide is designed to help you adopt the “Challenge 25” policy, which has been developed by the Retail of Alcohol Standards Group to support the effort to eradicate underage sales.

Why Challenge 25?

Since the introduction of Challenge 25 (previously Challenge 21) the number of underage sales has significantly declined. In 2012 Serve Legal reported that the test purchase pass rate had risen from 55% in 2007 to 76% now. Further to this, the Department of Health report into Drinking, Smoking and Drug Use among young people show the number of young people purchasing alcohol continues to decline. This is because the increased threshold of challenging 25 year olds, along with the training involved in the scheme, has meant better awareness of front-line staff leading to fewer mistakes and ultimately fewer underage sales.

How Do I Adopt Challenge 25?

Challenge 25 simply requires that every person buying an age restricted product such as alcohol, who looks under the age of 25, is challenged to produce a valid ID. In order to adopt Challenge 25, you should consider the following:

Staff Training

It’s important to have a program in place to regularly train staff about the Challenge 25 scheme, including who to challenge and how, especially when inducting new staff. This will help you ensure your staff are confident in making necessary challenges and whatever policy you decide upon is consistently applied at all times. Training in this area should be included training records, such as staff induction handbooks and staff induction check lists to ensure staff have their received their initial training. As staff can become complacent about this issue training should be refreshed regularly.

Advertising Your Underage Policy

There is a wealth of posters etc. to display available from organisations such as PASS or WTSA, so there really is no excuse not to have them displayed (More details at the end of this guide.) You should display the posters in prominent places in your pub to advertise your proof of age policy. This helps not only to deter potential underage customers, but will also act as a back up to staff members who make challenges.

Support Your Staff

Challenge 25 will only work if your staff have confidence that the decisions they make will not be undermined, therefore, it’s important to ensure that difficult decisions staff have made are not challenged and overturned. If you feel there has been some misunderstanding you should broach this issue with your staff in private.

Keep Accurate Records

As with any policy you adopt or regulation you comply with, it’s useful to keep records of all failed attempts to buy alcohol of those without ID who look under 25 or attempts to use fake IDs. If you are in the unfortunate position of being challenged by the police or are subject to Trading Standards operations should they be operating in your areas, having a log book to show them will be important in proving you have been diligent in this area. Both police and Trading Standards regularly operate such test purchase schemes from time to time and they generally don’t announce to the public when these activities are being carried out, so maintaining a proof of age policy and keeping records at all times is paramount.

What ID Is Acceptable?

There are hundreds of forms of ID used in the UK. The standard Challenge 25 scheme suggests only accepting Passports, Driver’s Licences and PASS approved cards. While individual premises can accept anything within those proscribed by the law (ID that includes a hologram, name, date of birth and photo) it is important to make a decision about what you will accept and publicise this clearly. That way both staff (including door supervisors) and customers are left in no doubt what is acceptable.

Be Aware Of Fake ID

The Home Office has produce guidance for retailers to help them understand how to spot fake ID and it is important to ensure your staff are trained about the types of ID that are acceptable and how to look out for fakes.

What are the penalties for underage sales?

There are significant penalties for selling alcohol to a person under the age of 18 for both staff and retailers. These include:

  • A fine of up to £5000 if a member of staff makes an underage sale unless they can show they have taken all measures including asking for identification that would convince a reasonable person that they were over 18;
  • A fine of up to £20,000 for a premises that persistently sells to people underage, defined as happening on 2 or more occasions in a 3 month period;
  • Closure orders for a maximum of 14 days following persistent underage sales;
  • A fine of up to £5,000 for proxy sales, where a person purchases alcohol on behalf of a minor.

Is there any further useful information?

For further information about Challenge 25, including all designs for posters, badges and shelf sliders which are available to download for free, click here

Home Office Guidance on Fake ID is available to download here

Home Office Guidance on the Licensing Act 2003 and Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act is available to download here

Community Alcohol Partnerships (CAP) – CAPs aim to tackle public underage drinking through co-operation between alcohol retailers and local “stakeholders”, such as Trading Standards, police, local authority licensing teams, schools and health networks. CAPs address both demand and supply of underage drinking through enforcement, education and public perception. There are now over 35 CAPs in operation across the UK. For more information click here.

The Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) – PASS is the UK’s national proof of age accreditation scheme, endorsed by the Home Office, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the Security Industry Authority (SIA) and the Trading Standards Institute (TSI).

PASS sets and maintains minimum criteria for proof of age card issuers to meet. All cards schemes are required to submit to periodic audits carried out by an independent audit team appointed by the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) to ensure that they meet and keep the standards required for PASS accreditation. For more information visit the PASS website.

Here’s a handy guide to preventing underage sales for you and your staff :

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