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If you are found guilty of selling alcohol to a person under 18, you can face prosecution and a criminal record, or an on-the-spot fine of £80 from the police.

Any evidence of underage sales can also trigger a review by Trading, which could lead to the loss of the premises licence.

Protect your licence against illegal alcohol sales

Trading Standards will expect you to be effectively operating a ‘Proof of Age Scheme’ (i.e. Challenge 25).

Under 18s cannot legally purchase alcohol. The rule within your premises for young-looking customers (those who look under 25, even if they could be over 18) must be ‘NO PROOF OF AGE = NO SALE’.

Having prominently positioned underage notices at the point of sale can help to reinforce the message.

How to refuse an underage alcohol purchase

Refusing a sale can sometimes make the customer angry. Below are some tips to help you handle difficult refusals.

Ask for proof of age. This helps the situation as it is not a direct refusal. It says that you will make the sale if they can produce acceptable and valid proof of age. Only accept photo identification and only if you are certain it is legitimate.

Refuse politely. If necessary, repeat your refusal clearly.

Keep calm. Don’t get into an argument.

Explain briefly why you cannot sell. Try saying:

  • “I’m sorry. If I serve you, I might be breaking the law.”
  • “We have a policy of no proof of age, no sale.”
  • “Our company policy is not to sell these products to young people.”

Point out your notices, posters and stickers that indicate you will not serve alcohol or other age-restricted products to under-18s.

Be positive in your refusal. Have a firm tone of voice, be confident and use direct eye contact.

The law is on your side, and you are doing the right thing. You may also wish to call your supervisor or manager for support if necessary.

Remember to record details in your premises’ refusals register and report any incidents where you have felt threatened and/or intimidated.

Please note that this information is for general guidance only and should not substitute professional legal advice. If you have specific concerns, we recommend consulting one of our legal experts.


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