Convenience stores could be required to operate an age verification policy to prevent sales of alcohol to underage customers under proposals annouced today in the government’s mandatory Code of Practice for alcohol retailers.

The proposal would require all premises which sell alcohol have an age verification policy in place requiring them to check the ID of anyone who looks under 18 “to prevent underage drinking which can lead to anti-social behaviour and put young people at risk of harm.”

It is proposed the measure would come into effect on October 1 to give retailers time to prepare.

The Association of Convenience Stores assured responsible local retailers that they had nothing to fear from the Code. "Preventing underage sales is the number one priority for any local shop selling alcohol," said chief executive James Lowman. "Retailers know that they have to develop a robust sales prevention policy and a comprehensive approach to staff training."
ACS encourages  its members to adopt a strict Challenge 25 policy, he added.

"Retailers accept that if they fail in their responsibilities they face tough sanctions, but we expect this to be matched by a commitment from politicians, police and communities to support local shops in their difficult frontline role.”

In addition to the mandatory code, tough new powers for local councillors will come into effect at the end of January. These are intended to help councils tackle problem premises by calling for a review to restrict or remove their licence without having to wait for the police or local residents to complain.

Other conditions of the Code targeted pubs, bars and clubs, including a ban on irresponsible promotions including “all you can drink” deals, and a requirement to make free tap water available to customers.

Wine and Spirits Trade Association chief executive Jeremy Beadles said that in most respects the Code enforces best practice that was already met or exceeded by the vast majority of the trade.

“Retailers led the way by introducing Challenge 21 in 2006 and last year saw the widespread adoption of Challenge 25 as part of our members’ commitment to combat underage purchase of alcohol,” he said.

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