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Trade Advice Document

Trading advice from several sources is available to help businesses comply with the law.

The Health and Safety Executive website has advice on:

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute provides advice on a number of topics:

Aerosol spray paints

In the guide

This guidance is for England & Wales

It is a criminal offence to sell an aerosol paint container to anyone under the age of 16.

There are a number of measures you can put in place to avoid selling to people under 16. These include understanding the various age restrictions for particular products, regular staff training and carrying out age-verification checks.

Anti-social behaviour & aerosol spray paint

The Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 addresses the problem of spray-painted graffiti, recognising that graffiti can contribute to the fear of crime. Research has shown that graffiti, litter and general degradation of a neighbourhood disproportionately affect people's sense of safety and security. Local authorities spend considerable sums of money every year removing graffiti, with varying degrees of success.

The law

The Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 deals with the sale of aerosol paint to children:

  • a person commits an offence if they sell an aerosol paint container to a person under the age of 16
  • the owner of the business, as well as the person who made the sale, may be liable if a sale of an aerosol paint container is made to a person under the age of 16
  • an aerosol paint container is a device that contains paint stored under pressure and is designed to permit the release of the paint as a spray

Defences

If you are charged with an offence of selling an aerosol paint container to a person under the age of 16, you have the defence that you took all reasonable steps to determine the purchaser's age and that you reasonably believed that the purchaser was not under the age of 16.

If you, as the owner of the business, are charged with an offence because someone working in your premises has sold an aerosol paint container to a person under the age of 16, you have the defence that you took all reasonable steps to avoid committing the offence.

Keeping within the law

In order to keep within the law and therefore satisfy the legal defences, you should introduce an age verification policy and have effective systems to prevent sales to persons under 16 years of age. These systems should be regularly monitored and updated as necessary to identify and put right any problems or weaknesses, or to keep pace with any advances in technology.

Key best practice features of an effective system include:

Age verification checks

Always ask young people to produce proof of their age. The Chartered Trading Standards Institute, the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers support the UK's national Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) (opens in a new window), which includes a number of card issuers. You can be confident that a card issued under the scheme and bearing the PASS hologram is an acceptable proof of age.

A photo driving licence or passport are also acceptable but make sure the card matches the person using it and that the date of birth shows they are over 16. Military identification cards can be used as proof of age but, as with other forms of identification, make sure the photo matches the person presenting the card and check the date of birth. Be aware that military identification cards can be held by 16 and 17-year-old service people.

Some young people may present false identification cards so it is advisable to also check the look and feel of a card. For example, the PASS hologram should be an integral part of a PASS card and not an add-on.

If the person cannot prove they are over 16, or if you are in any doubt, then the sale should be refused.

Please see the Home Office False ID guidance (opens in a new window) for more information.

Operate a Challenge 21 or Challenge 25 system

This means that if the person appears to be under the age of 21 or 25, they will be asked to verify that they are over 16 by showing valid proof of age.

Staff training

Make sure your staff are properly trained. They should know which products are age restricted, what the age restriction is and the action they must take if they believe a person under the age of 16 is attempting to buy. It is important that you can prove that your staff have understood what is required of them under the legislation. This can be done by keeping a record of the training and asking members of staff to sign to say that they have understood it. These records should then be checked and signed on a regular basis by management or the owner.

Maintain a refusals log

All refusals should be recorded (date, time, incident, description of potential buyer). Maintaining a refusals log will help to demonstrate that you actively refuse sales and have an effective system in place. Logs should be checked by the manager / owner to ensure that all members of staff are using them. 

A specimen refusals log is attached.

Some tills have a refusals system built in. If using a till-based system, you should ensure that refusals can be retrieved at a later date. You should also be aware that some refusals are made before a product is scanned.

Store & product layout

Identify the age-restricted products in your store and consider moving them nearer to, or even behind the counter. Consider displaying dummy packs so that people have to ask for the products if they want to buy them.

Till prompts

If you possess an EPoS system then it may be possible to use it to remind staff of age restrictions via a prompt. Alternatively, stickers can be used over certain product barcodes.

Signage

Display posters showing age limits and a statement regarding the refusal of such sales. This may deter potential purchasers and act as a reminder to staff.

Closed circuit television (CCTV)

A CCTV system may act as a deterrent and reduce the number of incidents of underage sales. It will also help you to monitor 'blind spots' within your store if it is not possible to change the layout or relocate the products behind, or closer to, the counter.

If you sell by distance means, such as online or via a catalogue then you should set up an effective system capable of verifying the age of potential purchasers to ensure they are 16 years or above for the purchase of aerosol spray paints. Please see 'Online sales of age-restricted products' for more information.

Penalties

If you are convicted of an offence under section 54 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, the maximum penalty is a fine of £2,500.

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: March 2017

PixelPlease note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.

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The county council is not responsible for this information.