Underage shoppers use face masks to fool staff into selling alcohol

Council bosses warn underage shoppers in face masks are fooling staff into selling them booze, cigarettes and fireworks

  • Council bosses used teenage volunteers to see which shops sell to children  
  • Six out of 11 shops failed to ask customers to remove masks if age was in doubt 
  • The number caught selling alcohol increased significantly this year and there had also been complaint about underage yobs setting off fireworks

Underage shoppers wearing face masks are fooling staff into selling them alcohol, cigarettes and fireworks, council bosses have warned.

Six out of 11 shops targeted in a trading standards sting failed to follow the guidelines to ask customers to remove face coverings if their age was in doubt.

Council bosses in York used 16-year-old volunteers to find out which businesses are selling age-restricted products to underage customers.

The number caught selling alcohol increased significantly this year and there had also been complaint about underage yobs setting off fireworks.

Matt Boxall, head of public protection for York, blamed the rise on customers are wearing face coverings.

Six out of 11 shops targeted in a trading standards sting failed to follow the guidelines to ask customers to remove face coverings if their age was in doubt (stock image)

He said: ‘If our volunteers are asked how old they are they must give their true age and if they’re asked for ID they must say they don’t have any.

‘Obviously, this year was slightly different in that the purchaser was wearing a face covering.

‘Retailers are allowed to ask a customer to take off their face covering to establish proof of age, so in part it was a test of whether that was actually happening.

‘You can see from the results where we undertook 11 visits, there were six sales. The failure rate was far higher than it usually is.’

The council carried out follow up visits and all but one shop asked for ID the second time. He said: ‘It was a chain store.

‘It was unfortunately the same seller that sold to the underage volunteer last time, so that that is a little disappointing to say the least.

‘But we will be going through the process of interviewing the various parties to find out what happened there before deciding what further action is appropriate.’ 

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