Proxy sales in the spotlight

27 October, 2009

Supermarkets have come under pressure to review the way they handle sales of alcohol to adults accompanied by their children after a spate of high-profile incidents where people were refused service.

Liberal Democrat MP Greg Mulholland tabled a Commons motion accusing supermarkets of carrying out over-zealous till policies that are “misplaced and lacking in common sense”.

One of the cases involved a Leeds constituent of Mulholland’s in her 50s who was told she couldn’t buy wine with her weekly shop because she had her 17-year-old daughter with her.

The MP said Morrisons’ action was “simply absurd”. “Whoever thinks this policy will do anything to stop antisocial drinking by kids is in cloud cuckoo land,” he said.

Morrisons said it stood by the checkout worker involved. Corporate affairs director Richard Taylor said: “The individual salesperson is faced with an on-the-spot fine of £80 if they make a proxy sale. Our staff are doing a good job in enforcing the law where they have reason to question why people are buying alcohol.”

Shops are prevented by law from selling alcohol to an adult if they believe it’s being bought on behalf of a minor.

In separate incidents a Cambridge women was stopped from buying wine at Tesco when she had her 17-year-old sister with her, and a Dorset woman was told her 14-year-old son couldn’t carry bags of Asda shopping containing alcohol.

A statement from Tesco said customers shopping with a child would not be prevented from being able to purchase alcohol. “But if staff suspect proxy selling – that alcohol is being purchased by an adult for someone under-age – the sale will be refused,” it said.

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