Leadership and Management

What is Test Purchasing

Ricky Kambray
Ricky Kambray

Many countries around the world are becoming more aware of the importance of child safety. Through collaboration with the law, you can safeguard children from harmful items like alcohol, cigarettes, knives, fireworks, scratch cards, and more. 

Currently, many people are aware of this, and it is definitely directed by law. The general public is curious to know more about this issue. Because of this, people frequently inquire, “What is test purchasing?” In the UK, it is strictly followed everywhere, and British people are concerned about their teenage group.

Read this blog to learn everything related to test purchasing and many more.

What is Test Purchasing?

Typically, test purchasing is a way to keep minors out of the age-restricted product purchases. A test purchase is when Camelot, Trading Standards, the police, or another local authority hires an underage customer to visit your bar or store and attempt to buy age-restricted items.

By doing this, you can be sure that you are abiding by the law. Also, check that you are not selling any prohibited products to minors. The National Lottery’s underage test purchase data shows that test purchase is very successful, with a success rate of up to 90%.

What is Test Purchasing

How Does Test Purchasing Work?

Test purchasing is a regulatory tool, and local authorities are solely responsible for the enforcement of legislation relating to the sale of age-restricted products. There are a few different ways that an underage test purchase can happen.

  • You can do this process in a store or online. If the person is successful in buying the alcohol, they may be charged with a minor in possession (MIP) offence.
  • One way is when a secret police officer or test purchaser goes into a store and tries to buy alcohol or cigarettes. If the premises staff sell the alcohol or any other prohibited product to a minor, then they can be charged for selling it. 
  • Another option is Proxy purchasing. It occurs when a person over the age of 18 buys a product designed for a certain age range and then gives it to someone who is under the legal restriction age. Your work is done legally if you carry it out as a purchaser. It should be a crime if you do it for entertainment or any other reason.

Who is Responsible for Conducting Test Purchases?

Trading Standards Officers (TSOs) are permitted to make test purchases of age-restricted goods by the local council. However, police officers and staff from the local authority’s Trading Standards Services conduct test purchase operations. On occasion, the National Lottery can also be involved, though not always. Authorities can conduct underage test purchases in a few different ways. In this case, they can either hire someone to try and buy alcohol from them or ask their staff to try and buy alcohol from other stores.

They use young people to control test purchases both online and at brick and mortar locations to ensure that retailers follow the law in regard to age-restricted products. National Trading Standards is conducting tests on underage sales. Below are a few typical examples of products:

  • Alcohol
  • Fireworks
  • Cigarettes
  • Knives

What is Test Purchasing


According to the Licensing Act of 2003, it is illegal to buy alcohol if you’re underage or to do so on someone else’s behalf. So, you or your staff must not sell alcohol to any person under the age of 18 years. That’s why National Trading Standards and the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) are frequently made to check for underage drinking. They will try to get alcohol from shops, off-licences, and pubs using mystery shoppers or volunteer teenagers.

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The Fireworks Act of 2003 states that you are not allowed to sell sparklers or fireworks to anyone under the age of 18. In the UK,  fireworks sales are governed by local government trading standards, which apply to both online and in-person purchases. Trading standards authorise and coordinate test purchases,  which are sometimes carried out with the police. To enforce the Fireworks Law, local Trading Standards teams frequently conduct these kinds of tests.


If you or your staff sell cigarettes, tobacco, shisha, or any other smoking-related products to a person under the age of 18, including cigarette papers, you are breaking the law.  The Children and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco) Act of 1991 also applies to herbal-based products that don’t contain tobacco, like herbal shisha and herbal cigarettes. It is also illegal, Selling E-cigarettes, including vaping liquids containing nicotine, to minors.


As a dangerous weapon, knives are not allowed to be sold to teenagers. The main aim of these tests is to ensure that retailers are complying with the law and are not selling knives to underage people. The owner will face legal action if any minors buy knives from them. So, it is best to inform your staff to follow the rules and stop the sale of knives. 

Apart from these, Camelot is the company in charge of carrying out test purchases for the National Lottery, including scratch cards.

Camelot’s test purchases are known as “operation child.” Staff members find it challenging to verify the age of scratch cards or lottery tickets. They frequently find it off-putting that those between the ages of 16 and 17 won’t have ID. It’s a good idea to remind your staff that a passport can be used for identification. However, many 16- and 17-year-olds will have one.

Each and every one of these test purchase operations is carried out in cooperation with regional authorities and the police.

When Can a Test Purchase be Conducted?

A test purchase can happen at any time, so there are no strict rules about this. Here are a few common guidelines that are followed in this procedure.

  • It can be carried out as a part of regular compliance audits. For example- The BPPA frequently makes test purchases to make sure they are complying with the law.
  • The police may carry out a spot check if there is a complaint or information that a particular store is selling age-restricted goods to children. 
  • As a randomised procedure, test purchase could also be a matter of routine.
  • Online test purchases are usually carried out by a volunteer  from an online store. 

In general, when police plan to conduct a test purchase, they’ll let the local licensing authorities know and cooperate with them. Sometimes during the test purchase, the police usually use minors or people who appear to be their age . They are not trying to trick businesses, so when a test purchase is made, you need to assume that the customer is underage.

What Happens if I Fail a Test Purchase?

If you fail the test purchase, the licensing authority develops an action plan in your workplace to tackle any age-restricted sales. The following things may occur after failing a test:

  • Give a formal warning or a notice of penalty for the disorder.
  • Pay an instant fine.
  • Take legal action against the business’s seller or owners.
  • They provide an action plan for your staff. For example-
    • suspending the responsible employee who is in charge of selling goods to minors..
    • Training employees on age-restricted products.
    • Advising on how to deal with forged identification. 
    • Assisting the staff with challenge 25 (source: lawinsider).
  • The licensing authority can suspend or review your licence.
  • The licensing body completely revokes your licence. If it happens, there is an appeal process to the magistrates.

Is There a Fine for Failing a Test Purchase?

If a test purchase is unsuccessful, the failure may result in an immediate fine or a court appearance. One of the additional penalties could be losing your licence to sell lottery tickets, scratch cards, alcohol, tobacco, and other items. The maximum punishment for selling things like knives, fireworks, and solvents to children is imprisonment. Some examples are given below-

  • According to GOV.UK
    • The maximum fine for supplying or selling alcohol to children is $5,000.
    • On a first offence, personal licences may be suspended or revoked.
    • The fine increases to £20,000 when alcohol is sold to kids repeatedly. This sale has happened twice from the same location over the course of three months. 
    • Alternatively, it might be forbidden to sell alcohol there for 48  hours to 2 weeks.
  • As per the UK Government, if you sell or use fireworks illegally, you could face an unlimited fine and a maximum 6-month prison sentence. In addition, you could also get a fine of £90.
  • As stated by Haringey, cigarettes must adhere to the following penalty.
    • Retailers must display a clear sign that states, “It is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18”. 
    • Selling cigarettes to any person under the age of 18, you could face a fine of up to £2,500.
    • Any individual under the age of 18 cannot be sold E-cigarettes or vaping liquids containing nicotine. An offence carries a £2,500 fine.
  • Haringey states that the maximum penalty on summary conviction is 6 months imprisonment or a fine of £5,000 or both, for knives.

ow do I Become a Test Purchaser

How do I Become a Test Purchaser?

You can become an underage test purchaser in the UK in a few different ways. Requirements of a test purchaser.

  1. The age range of 18 to 19
  2. Must have ID and working rights in the UK.
  3. Join as a volunteer test purchaser before starting your actual job. For age-restricted goods and services, many local authorities are looking for young people. 
  4. Join an organisation that specialises in this type of testing.

Once you select the company, you just sign up and wait to get your task. You will be asked to enter stores as an underage test consumer and attempt to purchase a product that is only available to people of a certain age. If you are successful, you will give them feedback and inform them how it went. 

So, if you’re looking for a way to make some extra money and do some social work, becoming an underage test purchaser could be the perfect opportunity for you.


So, here you have it. Hopefully, you are fully informed regarding the most frequently asked question, What is test purchasing? Alcohol, tobacco, knives, fireworks, etc. products are illegal and dangerous for minors. It’s our duty to guide the younger people properly. We must inform them about test purchases and any possible drawbacks. So, keep us in mind as you discuss this with any minor.

Happy reading!

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Ricky Kambray

Hey this is Ricky Kambray an award-winning first-aid trainer with over 20 years of healthcare and teaching expertise. Highly certified general nurse regularly appears in the press discussing accident prevention and first aid advice.