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Age-restricted products and services


The sale or supply of certain products and services is prohibited under a number of pieces of different legislation. The legislation is sometimes the same throughout the UK, and sometimes different inone or more of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Further information may be obtained from the Chartered Trading Standards Institute 'Business Companion' guiode to Age-restricted products. This deals with the following:



Age restriction

adult fireworks and sparklers (category F2 [outdoor use: confined areas] and category F3 [outdoor use: large open areas] fireworks)

18 and over

aerosol paint

16 and over


18 and over

Christmas crackers

12 and over


18 and over

knives / axes / blades

18 and over (in Scotland domestic knives can be sold to those aged 16 and over)

lighter refills containing butane

18 and over

liqueur confectionery (Scotland only)

16 and over

lottery tickets / 'instant win' cards

16 and over

nicotine inhaling products (referred to as nicotine vapour products in Scotland)

18 and over

party poppers and similar low-hazard low-noise fireworks (category F1) (except Christmas crackers)

16 and over


16 and over


18 and over


18 and over

video recordings: U (universal)


video recordings: PG (parental guidance)


video recordings: classification 12

12 and over

video recordings: classification 15

15 and over

video recordings: classification 18

18 and over

video recordings: classification R18

18 years and over in a licensed sex shop

video games: PEGI rating 3


video games: PEGI rating 7


video games: PEGI rating 12

12 and over

video games: PEGI rating 16

16 and over

video games: PEGI rating 18

18 and over

Other age-restricted products and servicesinclude:

Pet sales

Prostitution and sex establishments


Due diligence defence

In the context of the charge of an offence relating to the sale of an age-restricted product, a due diligence defence will allow the person accused to defend the charge if he can show that he took all reasonable steps to avoid committing the offence.

In England and Wales, and in Northern Ireland, these steps are not usually defined in the legislation.

In Scotland, the legislation may stipulate the evidence of age which must be used to establish the due diligence defence. For example, the defence will only be established in the case of alcohol and tobacco sales if the the accused was shown any of the following documents and that document would have convinced a reasonable person as to the customer's age:

* a passport;

* a European Union photocard driving licence;or

* such other document, or a document of such description, as may be prescribed (e.g. a Proof of Age Standards Scheme(PASS) ID card)

It is therefore a matter for the courts to decide in the case of prosecution whether a trader has taken all due care in the particular case. The st andard of care required by the courts tends to be high. In practice, best practice such as the guidance of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute on sales of age-restricted products will be considered. This guidance recommends the following measures along with others:

* an age verification policy such as the UK's national Proof of Age Standards Scheme(PASS)

* a refusals log whereby all refusals of attempted purchases of products by  under-aged individuals are be recorded (date, time, incident, description of potential buyer);

* staff training on and monitoring of the application of the age verification policy, refusals log and other measures to prevent under-age sales; a 'Challeng 21' or 'Challenge 25' policy may be adopted

Due diligence in distance and online sales of age-restricted products

Distance including online sales of age-restricted products pose obvious problems for the supplier, due to the lack of a face-to-face transaction as a means of age verification. The Trading Standards Institute again has particular guidance on online sales of age-restricted products.

Recommended practical measures to avoid sales to under-age customers require the setting up of an effective system capable of verifying the age of potential purchasers to ensure they are above the minimum legal age to purchase a product. Checks unlikely to satisfy the due diligence defence include:

* relying on the purchaser confirming they are over the minimum age, such as using tick boxes to ask purchasers to confirm they are over the minimum age, or using an 'accept' statement for the purchaser to confirm they have read the terms and conditions and they are over the minimum age;

* asking the purchaser simply to provide a date of birth;

* using a general disclaimer such as 'anyone ordering this product from our website will be deemed to be at least 18';

* using e-payment services such as PayPal, Nochex or Worldpay; these services may require a customer to be over 18, but they may not verify a user's age.

Possible steps and precautions that retailers could adopt to assist with age verification are listed below, but the Trading Standards Institute points out that these may not be suitable for some situations and retailers will need to assess what steps are suitable and appropriate to their individual circumstances:

* Payment by credit card: credit cards are generally available only to those over 18; payment or verification of the purchaser using a credit (as opposed to a debit) card could serve to verify that the principal cardholder for the credit card is over 18.

* Age verification on delivery: retailers could use age verification checks at the point of delivery by ensuring that delivery drivers request a valid proof of age to confirm that the purchaser is over the minimum age to buy the product in question. Of course, third-party couriers may not accept responsibility for age verification.

* Online age verification checks: online age verification software is available that makes use of various sources of information in order to verify both age and identity during the ordering process. These checks include using the electoral register and/or credit reference agencies. There are also businesses that offer online access to electoral register information, which could be used to verify a purchaser's age.

* Follow up offline checks: after acceptance (subject to proof of age) of an online order, further checks could be carried out, such as requiring the customer to provide a valid / acceptable proof of age which can then be appropriately checked.

* Collect in-store: ‘bricks and click’ retailers with a physical store or using an intermediary with one may offer collect in-store, where age verification could be carried out by members of staff as with a normal face-to-face transaction

What's new

22/12/2016: Major retailers agree to strict age-verification process before selling knives

The Home Office has announced an updated list of UK retailers, including Tesco, Lidl UK and Amazon UK, who have signed up a voluntary agreement on a measures to prevent the underage sale of knives in their stores and through their websites. The Home Office has also announced it will work with the British Retail Consortium to extend this agreement to other retailers.

Other major retailers who committed to the agreement includes Boots, John Lewis, Argos, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, B&Q and Co-Op.

The principles set out in the agreement include:

• commitment to verify age of a customer is 18 before selling knives to them

• ensuring knives are displayed and packaged securely as appropriate to minimise risk

• training for all staff selling or approving sales of knives

The government also aims to explore the use of online identity exchange and Trust Elevate as a secure, reliable age verification tool for knife sales.

[Page updated: 08/04/2018]


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