Trading standards given too much time to waste says Under Age Sales Ltd

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The time limit for Trading Standards Authorities to bring prosecutions for selling alcohol to children should be reduced from 12 months to 6 months, says Under Age Sales Ltd - a social enterprise specialising in supporting age restricted goods retailers.

Currently, the Licensing Act 2003 permits a one year delay from a Trading Standards test purchase of alcohol to a prosecution being commenced in the courts.

However, this is being abused by some authorities, where cut backs in supervisory or management staff have led to long delays in prosecution decisions.

Under Age Sales Ltd is a social enterprise that specialises in helping small independent businesses to tackle the problems of age restricted sales. We work with retailers and Trading Standards to negotiate informal approaches to achieving compliance avoiding the need for prosecution entirely.

Launching its new website, Tony Allen, Managing Director said, “we have noticed some of our clients experiencing long delays between Trading Standards Officers submitting a report for a prosecution decision and the decision actually being taken by a Trading Standards Manager. This lethargy adds significant stress and anxiety for our clients, small independent businesses that are often run by families.”

“Having the threat of prosecution or potential closure hanging over any business is traumatic, but when this is accompanied by inexcusable delays in bureaucracy, it is shocking.”

The Licensing Act 2003 envisages that action will be taken quickly, making the offence ‘summary only’ for trial before Magistrates’. However, section 186(3) extends the usual time limit of 6 months from the date of offence to 12 months.

In one North East Council, it took five-and-a-half months from the offence for a decision to be made that no further action would be taken, apparently explained by an “office relocation”. In a Welsh Authority, a decision took five months, four of which were after the investigating officer had completed his report. In a South East County Council, a decision is still awaited on an offence that took place at the start of November 2011.

Mr Allen said, “the vast majority of retailers take their responsibility seriously and take action to train their staff, put in place Challenge 25 procedures and shop signage, however, if they slip up, they need to act fast to put problems right, which we can help with. They deserve the same speed from Trading Standards so that they can learn the relevant lessons and move on with their business. We have great success at engaging with Trading Standards to avoid formal enforcement action and adopt a more informal improvement plan approach, but we need quick decisions to make this work effectively.”


1.Under Age Sales Ltd is a social enterprise that specialises in helping independent retailers to tackle the problems associated with age restricted sales. The website provides comprehensive and free online advice and information about all of the laws and best practice around under age sales.

2.Managing Director, Tony Allen, is a former Chief Trading Standards Officer specialising in under age sales law and enforcement. He is the former chair of the Trading Standards North West Under Age Sales Strategy Group.

3.It is an offence to sell alcohol to any person under the age of 18 years. This is generally enforced by Trading Standards Officers using test purchase volunteers. The identity of the offender is generally known instantly and, although it may take a couple of weeks to establish what procedures there are in place, it doesn’t take six months or even a year.

4. We are available for interviews and have a selection of relevant royalty-free high quality photographs available for editors to use.

0161 443 4111

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Tony Allen

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