29th November 2015

Test purchasing of Age Restricted Products

London Trading Standards carry out covert test purchases of Age Restricted Products (ARPs). This means we will send in underage or young looking volunteers to attempt to buy ARPs or services.

These tests are conducted to check compliance with the law and with age verification policies (e.g. Challenge 25 schemes). Such test purchasing may be covertly observed or recorded. If the person serving correctly follows age verification best practice there should never be any sales to such volunteers.

Our underage test purchasing is carried out with regard to the ARP Code of Practice and the Age Restricted Products and Services Framework document which are both issued by the government’s Better Regulation Delivery Office. These ensure fairness and consistency.

Businesses that are subject to a test purchase are informed of the results, either at the time, or in writing after the event.

What happens when there is a sale?

When an underage sale occurs it is a criminal offence which both the seller and business owner can be liable for - subject to any statutory defences.  There are a variety of options as to follow up action depending on the product that was sold, the previous history of the business and the enforcement policy of the local authority.

Any subsequent investigations will be carried out in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and outcomes could include the issuing of advice and informal warnings, a Simple Caution, or ultimately prosecution in the Courts.  For alcohol a fixed penalty notice can be issued and a licence review may also be instigated.

London Trading Standards Officers can offer compliance advice to help businesses avoid illegal sales and some boroughs have introduced local schemes to support responsible retailing.  If you need assistance please contact your local council's Trading Standards.

Operation Sceptre - LTS film on knife test purchasing