Warning on age verification

03 September, 2010

A leading trade body has urged the off-trade not to get caught out by new rules on age verification policies, which come into effect on October 1.

The requirement for all licensed premises was the major regulation affecting take-home retailers brought in by the last government’s mandatory code, published earlier this year, which mainly affected pub and club operators.

Wine & Spirit Trade Association chief executive Jeremy Beadles said: “It’s vital that businesses are aware of these changes and ready to comply when they come into force.”?Under the new rules, shops will be required to have an age verification policy that ensures any customer who appears to staff to be under 18 is asked for photographic ID with a date of birth and a hologram before they can be served.

The code introduces the policy as a mandatory licence condition and failure to comply could ultimately result in a £20,000 fine or six months in prison.

In practice, most major retailers and many independents already operate Challenge 21 or 25 schemes, but it is the first time that age verification policies have been a legal requirement.

Further guidance on the new rules is scheduled to be issued nearer to the October 1 compliance date. The possible scrapping of the mandatory code is being considered as part of the new government’s consultation on licensing and the WSTA said officials had indicated the age verification policy was under most pressure because of high compliance costs.

“I’d urge businesses which want to see the mandatory code conditions affecting them overturned to respond directly to the government’s licensing consultation with evidence of the cost imposed on their business,” Beadles added.

Leading licensing law firm Poppleston Allen has described the consultation – which will include measures to hand greater control to local authorities and the police, and increased licensing fees as well as the below-cost pricing ban – as “badly thought out”.

Licence holders have only until September 8 to respond to the consultation, which is at http://bit.ly/bMPvQQ.

October 1 also sees a requirement for pubs and bars to make smaller measures of alcohol available become law. On-trade outlets will have to make their availability known on menus or verbally when taking orders.

Analysis, page 12

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