Underage sales - Trading Standards | Central Bedfordshire Council

Underage sales - Trading Standards

How to report underage sales to Trading Standards

Report an underage sale

To report an underage sale, please email or call us.

Email: trading.standards@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk
Telephone: 0300 300 8136

Anonymous reporting

Don't worry, you can let us know if you'd like to be anonymous. To ensure that reports are legitimate, though, we'll need to verify your contact details.

What is an underage sale?

People must be over 18 to buy alcohol, cigarettes, knives, lighter refills and many other items. We work to educate about and enforce underage sales legislation.

People must be 18 or older to buy:

  • alcohol
  • cigarettes and tobacco products
  • fireworks
  • knives
  • lighter refills
  • certain paints and solvents
  • crossbows
  • age-restricted DVDs

People must be 16 years or older to buy:

  • lottery tickets
  • aerosol paints
  • petrol
  • poisons

If you have any doubt about the age of anyone wanting to buy any of these items, ask them for proof of age.

Who can be prosecuted for underage sales?

The individual

This is the person selling the item, such as someone working on a checkout.

The employer

An employer has to ensure that all staff are appropriately trained regarding underage sales.

Consequences of selling to underage people

If you sell an age-restricted product to someone underage, you could face a large fine or even a prison sentence. At the very least, a fixed penalty. This applies to the business, but also to the person who makes the sale. If you have an alcohol licence, you could lose it.


If you do commit an offence by selling to someone underage, you can defend yourself if you are able show that you took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid committing the offence.

When you refuse to sell because someone looks under 25 and can’t provide proof of their age, then make a note of this in a refusals book. This record will show that you have taken precautions against selling to those under 18 and help you satisfy a defence should you need to do so.

If you own the business and one of your staff sells to someone underage, then you could still commit an offence. It is therefore important that you train your staff about underage selling and keep a record of the training you have given them.

Top tips for preventing underage sales

Challenge 25

Challenge 25 means that if you think someone looks under 25, you should ask for proof of age. This extra caution ensures that you don't supply to someone under 18 by mistake.

Proof of age

Where you ask for proof of age, it is important that you only accept legitimate identification.

Legitimate ID includes:

  • passport
  • driving licence
  • PASS-approved identification card

Proxy sales

If you think that an adult is buying alcohol or tobacco products for someone under 18, then refuse to sell to them and contact us for advice. Anyone who buys alcohol for a person under 18 may be committing an offence.

Email: trading.standards@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk
Telephone: 0300 300 8136