The national co-ordinating body for trading standards, Lacors, is reviewing the code of practice for test purchasing after strong criticism from retailers and trade associations.

The move by Lacors comes amid complaints by retailers about the means used by some local authorities to carry out test purchase operations, which have included instructing children to lie about their age when entering licensed premises.

C-Store understands Lacors is in consultation with a number of industry bodies including the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) to update the code of practice and bring it in line with changes in legislation on test purchasing that have taken place since 2000.

Although local authorities and police are not legally obliged to follow the code, retailers hope an updated version may bring some consistency and fairness to how test purchases are carried out.

David Patient, who runs Nearbuys Store in Canvey Island, Essex, said: “I thought the whole deal with test purchases was to catch those retailers who were acting irresponsibly, not to trick those who are trying to make an honest living and have made a genuine, one-off mistake. This review needs to take this into consideration and come up with a consistent and realistic way to carry out test purchasing operations.”

The ACS has pledged to take up the issue of fairness regarding test purchasing with the Home Office in light of evidence which showed local authorities in Essex and Liverpool were asking children to lie about their age during “sting” operations before Christmas.

ACS chief executive David Rae said: “This sort of activity is clearly designed to entrap retailers and staff, and is not acceptable. We are looking forward to consulting with Lacors in a review of the code.”