Responsible retailers stand to benefit from a new Age Restricted Products Code of Practice which aims to reduce red tape and create a more consistent approach to the policing of age-restricted sales.

The new code would also allow local authorities to focus on dealing with “rogue traders” and build closer partnerships with retailers and the police, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) said.

It urges authorities to consider first discussing any complaints or intelligence with retailers prior to conducting test purchases.

It also suggests that businesses should be notified in writing of the outcome of any test purchase attempts.

Regulators are also encouraged to give advice in “clear, accessible language” in a variety of formats, and to target additional support at new businesses.

They are also called on to work more closely with local initiatives including Town Centre Partnerships, Local Enterprise Partnerships and regional tobacco control groups.

“This important code recognises the vital role of the business community in upholding standards, while giving local authorities more freedom to clamp down on those that break the law,” business minister Michael Fallon said: “Making responsible retailers part of the solution will keep these products out of the wrong hands and help boost local economies.”

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) welcomed the publication of the new code but warned that it should not mean “the end of the process.”

“At the end of the day the code is still only voluntary. While we hope that many local authorities adhere to it, it is important that its impact is monitored and if changes aren’t forthcoming, the government should consider making it mandatory,” public affairs director Shane Brennan said.

The Better Regulation Delivery Office (BRDO), an independent unit within the BIS has developed the new code in partnership with businesses and regulators. It builds on previous LACORS guidance and incorporates lessons learned from successful collaborations between local councils, police and businesses around the country.

The publication of the code is part of government action to cut red tape following feedback from businesses taking part in the Red Tape Challenge.