Posted on: 08 November 2018

A helpful guide for the festive period

It is no secret that the festive season brings an increased spending to the UK, and because of this, there has never been a better time to remind your staff about the correct way to sell age restricted products.

The Bank of England estimates that the average household will spend £2,000 a month, however leading up to Christmas, this will rise by another £500 in December, with 30% of this increase being attributed to alcohol sales.

Age restricted products


The law in the UK states that customers must be 18 or over to buy alcohol and they must provide proof of age if challenged. It is also illegal to buy or attempt to buy alcohol for someone else under the age of 18, so as a retailer you are within your right to refuse to sell alcohol if you believe that this may be the case. Breach of this law can lead to a fine of up to £5,000. Selling alcohol to under 18s twice in three months can lead to a £20,000 fine and you may be prevented from selling alcohol for a limited time.

Tobacco and e-cigarettes

Users of e-cigarettes in the UK have risen rapidly, from 7 million in 2011 to 35 million in 2016 and it’s predicted to rise to 55 million in 2021. It’s believed that e-cigarettes pose less harm to your health than traditional cigarettes, with 49% of users saying that they use their e-cigarettes to stop smoking. However, there are said to be health risks associated with e-cigarettes, and as such the UK government have deemed both tobacco products and e-cigarettes as being an age restricted product, with no one under the age of 18 being able to purchase either product. Failure to comply with this law can land the seller with a fine of up to £2,500.

Lottery tickets

Even the National Lottery has Christmas themed draws, designed to increase the amount of players in the festive period. Gambling in the UK carries an age limit of 18, except in the case of the National Lottery, where the limit is reduced to 16, which also applies to National Lottery scratch cards. Selling a lottery ticket or scratch card to anyone under the age of 16 can lead to a fine of up to £5,000, as well as the possibility of having your lottery terminal removed.


Fireworks are split into different categories for the different types that are available. Category 2 and 3 fireworks are considered “adult” fireworks and must not be sold to anyone under the age of 18. Category 1 fireworks include party poppers and must not be sold to anyone under the age of 16, however what you should be most vigilant about around the festive period is Christmas crackers, which carry an age restriction of 12 years old, and by breaking either of these laws, you could be subject to an unlimited fine and a six month prison sentence.

Video games, Blu Rays and DVDs

Media based presents such as DVDs or video games have become a more regular appearance on letters to Santa in recent years. The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) are the UK’s classification board who decide on age ratings for films and TV shows, whereas Pan-European Game Information (PEGI), is now responsible for rating video games, since taking over from the BBFC in 2012. PEGI reported an increase of 9.4% in 18+ rated products since 2003 signalling a trend in more age restricted products entering the market. Breaking this law can result in a maximum of 6 months in prison and a fine of up to £5,000 for the person who sold the item.

How to avoid fines

The simplest way to avoiding fines is to make sure that you are not selling age restricted products to underage customers.

Establish or adopt policies such as ‘Challenge 25’ which encourages anyone under the age of 25 to carry some form of photographic ID to prove their age when making an age-restricted purchase. You can find out how to adopt the ‘Challenge 25’ scheme on the Wine and Spirit Trade Association website.  

You should also make sure that staff receive training on how and when to challenge for ID on an age restricted product. Proving one’s age is as simple as providing a driving licence with a photo, passport, and even the proof of age card which meets national Proof of Age Standards Scheme guidelines.

Refusing sales

You are within your right to refuse the sale of a product that would result in breaking the law. Remember to refuse the sale calmly and respectfully, and to remain calm if a customer becomes annoyed. Make sure that you are able to outline your age restriction policy or even call for a manager or supervisor if necessary.

Remember to keep track of any incident when you have refused a sale, recording the name of the employee involved, name of the item, a brief description of the customer and the reason that the sale was refused.

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