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Underage sales

Would you like to work with Trading Standards Officers and the Police? Would you like to help with test purchasing activities?

We are always looking for young people to help with test purchasing. Ideally you will be aged between 13 and 16.

"Test purchase" exercises are the best way for Trading Standards to make sure traders are not illegally selling goods to under age children and teenagers. Under age volunteers, working with Trading Standards Officers, visit retailers' premises and try to buy age-restricted goods.

If you are interested in taking part or would like more information please contact the Trading Standards team on 01792 635600 or email

Information for volunteers

We are looking for volunteers to help with tobacco, alcohol, firework and other age restricted product test purchasing. If you are interested in helping us during occasional school holidays, evenings or weekends then please contact us. You will be fully trained in what to say and do and will not be identified in any publicity. An officer from the Trading Standards Service will accompany you at all times.

Anyone who volunteers will be photographed and videoed on the day of any operation. They will be shown how to operate covert surveillance equipment. They can either work alone or with a friend and will be accompanied by officers from trading standards at all times except when in the shop. When in the shop there will be an officer outside with a phone line open to our volunteers. You would not have to visit shops near where you live, near to your school or where you socialise. We will visit your parents/guardians first to discuss and explain matters fully.

We can't pay you for this but you will get refreshments including a meal at an eating establishment of your choice. At the end of your time with us we will provide you with a reference. This will be good if you are thinking about a career in 'enforcement' whether it be for the Police or another agency. Test purchasing operations are carried out within strict guidelines to keep you safe. Your parent's/guardian's consent will be required.

Information for parents

We will visit you first to discuss and explain matters fully. We will need your parental/ guardian consent. Parents/guardians of any volunteers will be asked to sign a parental consent form. You can say when and where the volunteer can assist and any special dietary requirements. You will also be asked to provide a copy of their birth certificate.

If we get any sales we would require you give a witness statement identifying your child from a photograph taken by us and producing the copy of the birth certificate. This should prevent you being called to give evidence at court but if the defendant objects you may be required to attend court.

Your child will be asked to enter shops, wearing covert surveillance equipment, and attempt to purchase age restricted products. If challenged they will be instructed to tell the truth about their age.

Occasionally volunteers are asked to tell traders lies about their age. This is very rare, but it is a requirement of our volunteers and should be something that they are prepared to undertake. The decision to allow a volunteer to lie is considered very carefully by a senior manager. It is permitted within the code of practice produced by LACORS our regulatory body and we will always inform the parent/guardian before asking a volunteer to lie.

In carrying out test purchasing exercises we will ensure that the welfare considerations of the child are paramount.

Will the volunteer have to attend court?

Our evidence of the sale is the video from the covert camera, the photographic evidence of how they looked on the day and your evidence as to their age. We will strongly resist any attempt by the defence to bring the volunteer to court.

Although we cannot pay your child, we do provide an appropriate meal and suitable refreshments throughout the exercise.

A letter of thanks that can be used for Record of Achievement is also provided.

Please remember the decision to allow your child to become a volunteer requires careful consideration. The object of test purchasing sessions is evidence gathering that may result in criminal court proceedings and your child may be asked to attend court as a witness. We ask that both you and your child consider carefully the implications of becoming a volunteer.

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