Retailers forced to check ID under new alcohol code

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Retailers in England and Wales will be legally required to check under-18s for ID under new measures proposed today by the government to cut down on alcohol-related crime.

But the government has stopped short of introducing minimum pricing for alcohol although it has not completely ruled it out either.

If the proposals are approved the measures will come into effect in two stages – 6 April 2010 and 1 October 2010.

In addition to compulsory ID checks, the government plans to:

ban irresponsible promotions like ‘all you can drink for £10’, women drink free deals and speed drinking competitions

ban ‘dentist’s chairs’ where drink is poured directly into the mouths of customers

make sure free tap water is available for customers

make sure that all alcohol retailers offer small measures of beers, wine and spirits

Any premises that break the rules will face a number of penalties. These include losing their licence, having extra tough conditions imposed on their licence, a maximum £20,000 fine and/or six months imprisonment.

If the proposals are approved by parliament the new measures will be introduced in two stages.

The conditions covering irresponsible promotions, the ‘dentist’s chair’ and ensuring free tap water come into effect on 6 April 2010.

The remaining conditions on checking ID and smaller measures will come into effect in 1 October 2010.

The ACS (the Association of Convenience Stores) has reassured local shop retailers that new rules on checking ID for those under 18 are ‘nothing to fear’ for the overwhelming majority of the industry.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Preventing underage sales is the number one priority for any local shop selling alcohol. Retailers know that they have to develop a robust sales prevention policy and a comprehensive approach to staff training. ACS encourages all its members to adopt a strict challenge 25 policy, whereby any customer who looks under that age should be asked to prove their age when buying alcohol. Retailers that implement this will not fall foul of the new law.

“Local shops are on the frontline of preventing underage drinking in communities. There is consistent improvement in the performance of shops in reducing access to alcohol for young people. Retailers accept that if they fail in their responsibilities they face tough sanctions, but we expect this to be matched by a commitment from politicians, police and communities to support local shops in their difficult frontline role.”