Stubbing out Proxy Purchasing

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

While retailers are ramping up their efforts to crack down on the sale of age restricted products to under-18’s with the help of schemes such as Challenge 25 and No ID, No Sale, the challenge of proxy purchasing remains a significant problem. Proxy purchasing of alcohol and tobacco is illegal and is shifting the focus of underage sales outside of stores.

Education is key

A survey we undertook last year with 1,000 15-16 years old across the UK revealed a third would approach someone else to buy alcohol or tobacco for them, whether a parent, sibling, adult family member or even a stranger.

Teenagers often stand outside stores and pressure adults into buying alcohol and tobacco for them, which not only poses a threat to the young teenagers themselves, but also encourages anti-social behaviour in the surrounding areas.

Educating adults is an important part of tackling the problem, as many don’t know they are committing a crime and could face an unlimited fine if they buy on behalf of a youngster. If a customer enters the store and a retailer suspects they may be purchasing for someone under 18, staff should explain to them that they are breaking the law.  

Take it outside

Not only is it an offence to buy these items on behalf of a minor, it is also illegal for retailers to sell alcohol or tobacco if they know it is going to be supplied to somebody under 18.

If retailers see children loitering outside the store and witness them approaching a member of the public to buy for them, this is deemed as having knowledge, therefore it is the retailer’s responsibility to prevent this from happening.

Convenience retailers tend to have more of a problem, because of their location and the fact that local youths often gather nearby. However, one way of tackling the problem before it happens is by politely asking the youngsters to move from outside the store so that they cannot approach older customers.

Say it and display it

Retailers act as the front line in tackling alcohol-related harm and crime, so should take it as part of their role to engage with adults in the community to prevent this from happening. This further emphasises the importance of staff training, as store workers should be equipped with the knowledge to explain to customers what is breaking the law and what isn’t.

Finally, retailers should use posters warning about proxy purchasing to communicate the message and display them outside to let local children know.