The Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) has published a new Age Restricted Products Code of Practice.
BIS claims the new code will strengthen the protection of young people and reduce red tape for responsible businesses that sell age restricted products safely, legally and profitably.
The code covers all products and services for which there are statutory age restrictions in place, including alcoholic drinks and cigarettes.
It sets out a process that follows the steps that an enforcing authority will work through, from prioritising the use of its resources, through its proactive work to support compliance, to targeted checks on compliance where these are warranted, and appropriate responses to non-compliance that is identified, including taking swift and firm action where necessary.
As well as providing guidance for local authorities to better use their resources for enforcing age restricted products, the code supports the Government's continuing drive to eliminate the bureaucracy burden affecting businesses throughout the UK.
Significantly, local authorities will be unable to target businesses unless there is evidence that they are selling age restricted products to under-age customers. The most used method of checking compliance - the test purchase - will be much more heavily restricted; routine test purchasing, not informing retailers if they have passed or failed a test purchase, and targeting businesses without evidence that they are selling products to under-age customers will no longer be acceptable.
The code also encourages local authorities to work in greater partnership with businesses, particularly those that are struggling to comply with the enforcing legislation.
Regulators are encouraged to give advice in clear, accessible language in a variety of formats, ensure legal requirements are explained clearly and fully, direct additional support towards new businesses, and to work closely with local initiatives.
The code represents another step in the Government's aim to reduce the red tape for businesses - those that comply should be left to operate alone and those that struggle, but are keen to progress, should be given help rather than find themselves subject to targeted enforcement action.
Although practice codes are only a collection of strong recommendations, the publishing of an enforcing authority's compliance and enforcement policy should mean that enforcement officers with a history of targeting compliant businesses will be held to account.
To see a copy of the code, please visit BIS: Code of Practice - Age Restricted Products.