Two of the key questions asked by licensed retailers are how can I prevent underage sales, and what is due diligence?
The simple answer to both is TAPS training, awareness, procedures and systems.
Since October last year you have been legally required to have an Age Verification Policy (AVP) in place at your store. Check out www.homeoffice.gov.uk/drugs/alcohol for guidance.
This policy must set out how your staff are expected to challenge to avoid underage sales, and defines the only proof of age to be used. This requirement currently limits acceptable proof of age to a passport, a UK or European photo driving licence, and a PASS-accredited card and nothing else.
Each has a photo, date of birth and hologram the prerequisites under the AVP.
Even though they are official, be aware that MOD cards do not have a hologram so may not meet these criteria.
You should also understand that there is no such thing as an international driving permit, or a motorcycle licence (unless you buy it for £25-odd on the internet!) so make sure your staff know that only a photo driving licence preferably UK issue but EU is okay as long as the staff member can be sure it is genuine is acceptable. If not, refuse the sale.
Having robust systems and procedures in place to train and then assist your staff on an ongoing basis to avoid underage sales creates your due diligence, but it is not a get-out-of-jail-free card.
Even with everything in place, if two underage sales occur in a short space of time you will almost certainly have to face a review of your licence, if only to prove that you adopt correct procedures.
Worryingly, though, it has been suggested in some legislative circles that two underage sales would in future be expected to result in a review and revocation.
This does not just apply to alcohol. Tobacco, lottery, knives and solvents are all now being tested and all can lead to penalties if an underage test purchase is failed and possibly even issues with your alcohol licence in the future.
In the next column I will go into more detail about the recommended staff training regime, but in the meantime, the important thing to remember is do not sell to the underage in the first place!