Trading Standards staff within the Office of Fair Trading regularly undertake surveys into the sale of age restricted products, with the assistance of young volunteers. In order for us to test whether traders are complying with the law we use young volunteers to go into a variety of premises to try and purchase age restricted products. This is known as ‘test purchasing'.
As such, we have a need for volunteers to work alongside officers in this area. The whole of the process of using young volunteers to make test purchases is covered by a Code of Practice with which we aim to comply as closely as possible.
Do you know any suitable young people who could assist? If so you may want to know the answers to the following questions.
What products do we test purchase?
Legislation controls the sale of a variety of commodities to people below certain ages and those of particular interest to Trading Standards Officers are:
- Tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars, loose tobacco, etc.);
- Intoxicating substances (glue, cigarette lighter refill canisters, etc.).
Who can volunteer?
Volunteers should be no less than 18 months younger than the age restriction for any particular product. For example, we are looking for volunteers no older than 16 years and 6 months (so probably 14-16). They should not look older than their age, they should not wear clothes which make them look older than their age (normal casual clothes are ideal) and that girls should not wear make-up during the exercise.
As a parent or guardian what will I have to do?
Parents/guardians of any volunteers will be asked to sign a parental consent form. You can stipulate when and where the volunteer can assist and any special dietary/medical requirements.
If age restricted goods are sold to our young volunteers the trader concerned may be prosecuted. We will need to take a photograph of the volunteer with the officer dealing with the case and this will be used in court. To formally establish the age of the young person we will require the parent/guardian to sign a witness statement giving the date of birth of the young person. Witness statements are usually accepted by defendants and replace the need for witnesses to attend court. However, the defendant does have the right to require the attendance of the witness and on rare occasions that right is exercised. We try to avoid the volunteer being called to attend court.
Are volunteers paid?
Volunteers are not allowed to be paid; however, appropriate refreshments and travelling expenses will be provided. Additionally the volunteers will receive a Certificate of Achievement signed by the Chief Inspector of Trading Standards in thanks and recognition of the contribution they have made to our enforcement activity. They can, if they so wish, include this in their School Record of Achievement.
What should I do if I know someone who wants to volunteer?
Please contact John Peet either by e-mail email@example.com or telephone (01624) 686520.