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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Challenge 25 necessary?

In 2005 off trade retailers were brought together by the then Home Secretary and urged to take action on the issue of underage sales. In response, retailers formed the Retail of Alcohol Standards Group (RASG) and commissioned research into why underage sales were taking place and to look for policies that could be implemented to prevent this. This led to the development of Challenge 21 (later Challenge 25) as a way of giving staff a buffer zone, should they not be able to accurately guess the age of a customer.

Importantly, the scheme wasn’t just about the posters, staff were given detailed training on the scheme and supported with additional training such as conflict resolution. This was an important cultural change for organisations. In addition to signage and training, managers were trained not to overrule staff who had made challenges, to ensure that they felt supported in their decisions and were more confident in making challenges.

While the results were impressive following the implementation of Challenge 21, it was felt that a greater buffer above 21 could produce an even greater impact. The national retailers – co-ordinated by RASG – therefore voluntarily moved up to 25, while the on trade continued to operate Challenge 21.

Is Challenge 25 a legal requirement?

All retailers are required by law to have a proof of age policy for the sale of alcohol which, as a minimum, requires individuals who appear to the person serving alcohol to be under the age of 18 years of age to produce on request (before being served alcohol) appropriate identification. Retailers that adopt Challenge 25 however, have on a voluntary basis agreed to extend this age level to 25, which the regulations allow.

However, the application of Challenge 25 is mandatory in Scotland and is placed as a condition on a significant number of licenses across the England and Wales.

What evidence is there on whether it is effective?

Research was conducting into the impact of Challenge 25 to understand the effectiveness and impact of the scheme. This research found that:

1. It is estimated that 850,000 people are trained in the application of Challenge 25 each year;

2. Around 11m people have been challenged through Challenge 25 and similar schemes;

3. 67% of the public, including 86% of 18-24 year olds, are aware of Challenge 25;

4. 79% either strongly support (51%) or tend to support (29%) retailers adopting Challenge 25;

5. Young people drinking in the last week has fallen 18% since Challenge 25’s introduction;

6. Since Challenge 21 was introduced consumption by 16-24 year olds has dropped by 24%.

The full report is available here: http://www.wsta.co.uk/images/Committees/RASG/2013workstreams/Challenge25Report2014.pdf

I am clearly over 25, why was I challenged?

It is incredibly difficult for shop staff to guess the exact age of consumers and therefore occasionally people that are over 25 are challenged when purchasing alcohol. On very rare occasions, some people that are considerably older than 25 are challenged. This can be because of a number of reasons, such as a licensing condition or staff taking an overly cautious approach to challenges. Once a challenge has been made the decision will be backed up by management to ensure that shop staff are not undermined and continue to have confidence challenging people. Retailers welcome feedback on how the scheme is operating and therefore those that believe the policy is being enforced unreasonably should report this to the store in question so that they can consider whether the operation and training is being delivered as it should be.

How do I adopt Challenge 25?

The operation of Challenge 25 is determined by each individual retailer. However, the WSTA has developed a short guide about how you can implement the scheme. This is available here: http://www.wsta.co.uk/images/Committees/RASG/2015/HowtoadoptChallenge25.pdf

Where can I buy Challenge 25 posters or badges or get the images?

The Challenge 25 posters, badges and shelf sliders are available for retailers to freely download at the following link http://www.wsta.co.uk/challenge-25. The Retail of Alcohol Standards Group does not sell or supply printed posters or badges, however the images are available in print quality format and can be produced at a local printer. There are some websites that do see the produce but these are private companies not linked to the Retail of Alcohol Standards Group.

What types of ID are acceptable?

Retailers that operate Challenge 25 are responsible for deciding which forms of ID that they accept and this will vary from retailer to retailer. In an effort to prevent fake ID being used, most retailers limit the types of ID that they accept and in some cases, conditions on specific alcohol licences restrict the types of ID that are acceptable in some stores. The ID that retailers are allowed to accept is set out in the Licensing Act 2003 guidance which states:

“Identification which is accepted as proof of age must bear the holder’s photograph, date of birth, and either a holographic mark or ultraviolet feature. Examples of acceptable ID include photo card driving licences, passports, military identification or proof of age cards bearing the PASS hologram, although other forms of ID which meet the criteria laid out above are also acceptable.”

Usually, a valid UK Driver’s Licence, Passport or PASS card is acceptable as part of Challenge 25 but individual retailers should be contacted to find the full details of what ID they accept. For more details on the PASS cards please visit: http://www.pass-scheme.org.uk/

I was with someone that was buying alcohol, why was I challenged?

Retailers are required to be vigilant not just for direct underage sales, but additionally they are working to ensure that sales are not made to young people by “proxy”. Retailers therefore train staff to make challenges if they believe there is a change that this is a proxy purchase. How retailers approach this varies and a range of factors are taken into account when deciding to make the challenge. This will include information like relationship between the person buying alcohol and the person with them, the time of day, the products being purchased and any other information that has been picked up, for example if there has been underage drinking problem in the area.

I do not have a Passport or UK Drivers Licence, how can I show ID?

Anyone is able to purchase a Proof of Age Standard Scheme Card to enable them to be able to provide proof of age. More details can be found at: http://www.pass-scheme.org.uk/

Who can I complain to about Challenge 25?

Challenge 25 is administered by each individual retailer and therefore if you have any questions or concerns over the adoption of Challenge 25 you should contact the retailer in question directly, either through the specific store or through the retailer’s national customer service teams.

I wasn’t buying alcohol, why was I challenged?

While Challenge 25 was initially adopted by retailers to prevent underage alcohol sales, many have now extended the scheme to cover all age-restricted products. This means that you could be challenged under the scheme when buying any age-restricted products such as lottery, tobacco, knives, DVDs or video games. Each retailer’s policy in relation to challenge 25 may be different, so questions around the application of the scheme should be taken up directly with the individual retailer in question.

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