Age-restricted sales

Prevent underage sales


It is illegal to sell age-restricted products to a person under the minimum age. You must be able to show that you took 'all reasonable precautions' and exercised 'all due diligence' to prevent underage sales.

You can do this by setting up effective systems within your business. These systems should be regularly monitored and updated. This will help you spot and fix problems or weaknesses. You should keep up to date with any new technology to help prevent underage sales. This means that:

  • you set up a system of control
  • you took due regard to the risks involved
  • you regularly check to make sure your system works
  • you can prove that you did this

Age verification systems

It is not enough to simply ask a young person’s age or date of birth as they may just lie. Key best-practice features of an effective system include:

Age verification checks

Verify the age of potential buyers by asking to see ID. Look carefully at the ID to make sure the photo matches the customer and check the date of birth proves the person is of age. If charged with an offence and required to appear in court, licensees, their servants or agents, may rely on a defence of due diligence if they record the description of the proof of age document shown on delivery, in a delivery book or on an invoice.

Challenge 25

A scheme to carry out age verification checks on anyone who looks younger than 25. It can be difficult to tell the age of a young person. Checking the ID of anyone who appears under-25 can help you avoid mistakes.

Staff training

Make sure your staff receive adequate training on underage sales. Keep a training record and make sure the training is regularly updated.

Till prompts

You can use prompts that appear on the till when an age-restricted product is scanned to remind staff to carry out age verification checks.

Store layout, signage and CCTV

Keep your age-restricted products where staff can monitor them. For example, fireworks stored on the shop floor must by law be kept in a secure cabinet. Use signs to inform consumers of the minimum legal age to purchase. You must display notices for tobacco and fireworks.

Keep and maintain a refusals register

This means keeping a record (date, time, incident, description of potential buyer) where sales of age-restricted products have been refused. This helps show that you refuse sales to underage people and have an effective system in place.

Refusing sales

If a young person cannot prove their age with ID or if you suspect the ID is not genuine - you must refuse the sale.

Saying no can embarrass a customer, so you should be tactful. Always be polite, professional and calm. Tell the customer that a valid ID is required by the business’ policy and by law.

It is against the law to sell an age-restricted product to a minor who is buying on behalf of an adult. For example, you must not sell cigarettes or nicotine-inhaling products (including e-cigarettes/vapes or refills) to someone under 18, even if you know they are buying them for their parent.

You should also refuse the sale if you suspect an adult is buying an age-restricted product on behalf of someone underage. For example, it is an offence for an adult to purchase, or attempt to purchase, tobacco products or nicotine inhaling products (including e-cigarettes/vapes or refills) on behalf of a child (known as proxy purchasing)

Accepted forms of ID

You should have a policy that only accepts recognised forms of ID. This could include:

  • Drivers' licence
  • Passport
  • Electoral identity card
  • ID with the PASS symbol, such as a 'citizencard'