With so many new rules and regulations for off-licences and corner shops to consider, is it any wonder that some firms may forget about the old rules that are still relevant? Every new rule and regulation that comes into being causes a firm to undertake more training and when you have so many things to remember, it is likely that you will forget something. The fact of the matter is though, you cannot forget one or two rules just because you have a lot to remember and ignorance is no excuse when it comes to dealing with the laws regarding your industry.
In the first of 2015, new rules and regulations came into being with respect to the display of tobacco and cigarettes. This means that many businesses have had to change their store layout and ensure that all team members are fully up to date with the new rules and regulations. There has been a spate of investigations carried out by Trading Standards teams of late to ensure that these regulations are being complied with. The positive news is that the vast majority of stores in England are complying with the new rules regarding the display of tobacco and cigarette products. The bad news is that many firms are failing to comply with existing regulations regarding many of the products that they sell.
Trading Standards teams in Devon and Somerset have been carrying out checks of stores in their local area. They went into 80 shops to carry out test purchases for alcoholic products with one area of focus being on whether the employees asked for proof of age from customers. All of the customers used in the test were at least 18 years old and of the legal age to buy alcohol but businesses are supposed to ask for identification from people who look under the age of 25 years old.
The reports of the test purchases were disappointing with around 50% of tested firms failing to ask for proof of age. Even more annoyingly, a second round of tests saw close to one third of firms fail for the second time. This has seen Trading Standards issue letters to all of the relevant businesses in their local area, reminding them of the licencing laws with respect to identifying ages and advising businesses to ask for proof of age.
There will not be any action taken against these businesses because there was no actual law broken but it does indicate that many firms are failing to deliver the practices that are expected of them. This means that these firms will likely experience more pressure from the ruling bodies in an effort to ensure that they are complying with the regulations. The fact that all of the customers were at least 18 years old means that the firm did nothing wrong but these guidelines are in place to protect businesses as much as the customer.
The amount of rules and regulations that small businesses have to deal with are growing year on year and there is a need for Trading Standards to provide small businesses with all of the information that they need. There will be people saying that all of the information and regulations are stated on their website and on official documents but in the current economic climate, very few business owners will have the time to check every so often to see what the latest changes are. There is a great deal to be said for the investigating work carried out by Trading Standards but there is also a need for the organisation to help businesses stay within the right side of the law.
The latest reports do indicate a worrying trend but as the Trading Standards say themselves, no law has actually been broken. You’ll find that until this changes, the majority of small business owners will continue doing what they are doing, because they don’t have the time to react to every guideline or regulation.
This means that there is no immediate need for experienced defence solicitors to spring to the defence of persecuted business owners, but this will likely come in the not too distant future. The ever changing rules on tobacco and alcohol sales make it difficult for small businesses to keep up to date with what they need to do to comply with the rules and regulations.
Andrew Reilly is a freelance writer with a focus on news stories and consumer interest articles. He has been writing professionally for 9 years but has been writing for as long as he can care to remember. When Andrew isn’t sat behind a laptop or researching a story, he will be found watching a gig or a game of football.