Young volunteers are being recruited by Croydon Council’s trading standards (TS) department to help prevent the sale of age-restricted goods to under-age customers.
It is a criminal offence for a business to sell an age-restricted product to a person under the legal age limit, and it is the job of TS officers to enforce the law relating to the sale of such products.
Businesses are offered free training to help them comply with the law, and test purchases are carried out to ensure compliance.
Volunteer test purchasers are used to monitor the sales practices of traders across the borough. This involves a young person trying, under strictly controlled conditions, to buy knives, alcohol, fireworks or cigarettes.
The TS team is looking for volunteers, aged between 14 and 16, to help carry out these important test-purchasing exercises.
Before a youngster can sign up, TS officers meet with parents and explain the process in detail. And it is necessary to get the written consent of a parent before every test purchase operation; without that consent a volunteer cannot be used.
Volunteers will not be asked to take part in operations where they are likely to be recognised, and it is unlikely they will ever be required to appear in court. The TS team follows a strict code of practice and does everything possible to avoid the volunteer attending court, but there is a chance that a volunteer may be called to give evidence. If that happens, they are helped and supported throughout the whole process.
Andy Opie, the council’s director of safety, said: “We’ve been running successful test-purchasing exercises for many years, resulting in a number of significant prosecutions of traders who have openly flouted laws designed to protect the public.
“The young people who have previously volunteered have found the experience interesting and rewarding. The scheme is unpaid but will lead to a certificate that participants can use as a record of achievement.
“The nature of the activity will also help with improving a volunteer’s confidence and give them valuable experience in an operational environment.”
Interested in volunteering? If you are aged between 14 and 16, or are approaching your 14th birthday, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8407 1311.