Retailers are getting better at asking for ID for alcohol sales, but still have much room for improvement according to test purchasing provider Serve Legal.

The company, which uses 18 and 19 year old volunteers to carry out test purchases of checkout staff on behalf of retail groups, said that 66% of supermarket, convenience store, off-licence and pub alcohol transactions surveyed featured a request for ID in 2008. This is an improvement on 2007’s figure of 55%.

Retailers in Southern England had the highest pass rate with 72%, while Northern Ireland had the lowest pass rate with 56%. Sunday proved to be the easiest day of the week for underage people to obtain alcohol with pass rates lower than any other day – and men were more likely to be asked for ID than women.

Director of Serve Legal Charlie Mowat applauded the efforts of retailers in 2008 but warned that it was important to maintain standards. He attributed the improvement in ID requests to the Think 25 campaign and the use of point of sale material in stores.

He said: “Retailers are continuing to get better at stopping underage sales. But as the recession bites, lower investment in the underage issue by some retailers may lead to a drop-off in performance for those retailers and therefore higher exposure to their licences.”

Mowat added that underage people will continue to innovate to find new ways to obtain alcohol.

He also called on the government to clear up legislation when it comes to alcohol sales. “For 2010 and beyond, the government must and will, we believe, bring greater consistency and clarity to legislation and focus on enforcing – rather than changing – existing laws.”