Shop hit with £2,500 in fines and costs after selling vape to 16-year-old
A shop has been ordered to pay more than £2,500 in fines and costs after selling a vape to a 16-year-old boy.
The Fountain Shop in Merthyr Tydfil was caught out by trading standards when they sent in the teenager, who successfully bought a pink grapefruit elfbar nicotine disposable vape pod from the store on Lower High Street on January 28 this year.
Last month, the store pleaded guilty to an offence under the Children & Families Act 2014 & Nicotine Inhaling Products (Age of Sale & Proxy Purchasing) Regulations 2015 at Merthyr Tydfil Magistrates Courts and was fined £1,666, ordered to pay costs of £490.50 and a £666 victim surcharge.
The conditions added to the licence by the committee on Thursday, October 26 included signs and ID checks through the Challenge 25 scheme, a refusals register to be kept and training and refresher training on underage sales.
In their submission to the committee, the trading standards service which applied for a review of the premises licence, said: “On the return to the store after the sale, staff were unclear as to who was in charge and the member of staff spoken to was not sure what the age policy was first stating 18 then 25 after spotting signs, they thought there was a refusals book which they could not locate and then was told by another member of staff that refusals were recorded on the tills.”
An assessment of the premises licence after the sale of the nicotine vape pod, found that this licence only has the mandatory conditions on the licence, and no controls relating to underage sales.
The trading standards submission said that it was established from Stephen Jones one of the two directors of the Fountain Shop Ltd stated that he was away on holidays when the sale took place.
There are approximately 20 members of staff at the store including the shop assistants and the supervisor, plus Stephen Jones as management.
There is no formal training program for staff, with staff being talked through their duties in the office by Stephen Jones and no formal supervision once trained, the committee report said.
There are no written training records maintained. Further updates are done through a works WhatsApp group where Stephen Jones asks staff to confirm that they have understood by way of a thumbs up or response.
The report said that any member of staff that does not respond is chased up by text. It was found by Trading Standards that there is a very unclear message to staff regarding the age policy for age restricted goods at the store.
With the policy being to check if customers are over 18, however there are posters for challenge 21/25, but these are just reminders to staff about age restricted goods to jog their memory.
There was no refusals book at the store at the time of the sale, and it is unknown when it went missing. There is also a till prompt system at the store, requiring staff to make an active choice to not sell.
However, all staff can override this on the system and the policy is to ask for ID before scanning the item so any refusals would not be recorded.
The report said there is no system in place for monitoring that staff working on the tills are asking for I.D. It was indicated by the Stephen Jones that they do not refuse many customers, however, with no recording system or supervision for staff to monitor refusals it is impossible to know what refusals have taken place.
After the sale had taken place, reminders were sent to the work WhatsApp group and Stephen Jones has started to tell staff to ask for ID if the customer looks under 21. It is the view of Trading Standards that this is not enough to protect those underage from obtaining age restricted goods from the premises.
The report considered by the council’s statutory licensing committee on Thursday, October 26 said: “It is the opinion of the Trading Standards Service that the Fountain Shop Ltd does not have sufficient and robust procedures in place to protect children from the harm and stop them from obtaining age restricted goods from the premises.”
The trading standards team said it believes that it is appropriate to request a review of this licence to reduce the likelihood of further sales of age restricted goods to those underage taking place in the future.
“It is not envisaged these conditions would be considered onerous, costly or
unreasonable for the Premises Licence Holder to implement and proportionate to the sale of a nicotine disposable vape to a 16 year old test purchaser and would help reduce the likelihood of future underage sales taking place at this premises.”
The council’ licensing department said it fully supports the review application brought by trading standards and that the risks and potential consequences relating to children accessing age restricted products are well documented.
The department said these issues have a detrimental effect on the protection of children from harm and the prevention of crime & disorder, two licensing objectives which the premises licence holder and DPS of the Fountain Shop should be promoting.
It said that premises licence for the Fountain Shop has been in place since 2005 with no significant changes to it since then.
Incident was “simply a mistake”
Mr Jones said that they had already started implementing some of the conditions proposed including the refusals book.
He said: “Anybody who knows my business and knows me, we’re not that type of business.
“That one occasion on the 28th of January was simply a mistake.”
He said they’ve decided to go with challenge 21 rather than challenge 25 because otherwise they’re going to start alienating customers and he said that quite a bit of money has been invested in the CCTV system.
He’s also had each member of staff read and understand a brief which he has got on file.
Mr Jones said: “I’m not going to sit here and deny everything. I’m not.”
But he said: “At the end of the day guys, with all the best training in the world, we all make mistakes.”
He said the business had an unblemished record of more than 30 years and that they’d never had an issue before.
Mr Jones said the person who made the mistake has been removed from using the till.
He said: “We’re a busy business but we’re a small business and I can’t spend all my time training people. You have to be realistic.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.