Shops in Somerset reminded to check for proof of age when selling alcohol

A third of premises tested in a recent study sold alcohol to young people without first asking for their proof of age.

Devon and Somerset Trading Standards recently carried out test purchases across the two counties to see whether shop staff asked young people for their proof of age.

As a condition of their licence to sell alcohol, shops should ask purchasers for proof of age in accordance with their own age verification policy.

Trading Standards sent 18 year olds – above the legal age to purchase alcohol but who looked younger than 25 – to 80 premises, (50 in Devon, 30 in Somerset), to purchase alcohol.

Half of the premises failed to ask for proof of identification.  The test was repeated on just those that failed, and 27 – roughly a third of the total number – failed again for a second time.

Trading Standards has written to all 80 businesses tested to remind them of the licensing laws, and advising them to check identities.

No action can be taken by Trading Standards against those premises that failed to check proof of age, because no law was broken.  But, because the study highlighted the problem in those businesses, Trading Standards will monitor them to ensure that their practices do not result in under age sales.

Next week is national Alcohol Awareness Week.

Councillor David Hall, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for the Trading Standards service, said:

“We’re taking the opportunity during Alcohol Awareness Week to remind businesses that they should be asking for proof of age when a young person, who looks younger than 25, approaches them to buy alcohol.

“We are pleased that of our latest study, most businesses did exactly that, but disappointed that as many as a third failed to ask the purchaser, even though the buyer was deliberately chosen for the test because they looked under 25.

“The law hasn’t been broken on this occasion, but this study alerts us to a risk that an offence could take place in future if those shops continue not to check people’s proof of age.   We will keep an eye on those businesses and steps will be taken if they are found to be breaking the law.”

Shops in the following towns failed the Trading Standards test:

In Somerset: Frome, Shepton Mallet, Glastonbury, Yeovil, Bridgwater, Taunton.

In Devon: Exeter, Honiton, Dawlish, Tavistock, Okehampton, Crediton, Tiverton, Cullompton.