A training scheme to help retailers tackle the risk of selling alcohol and cigarettes to underage young people has been launched by Sandwell’s trading standards team.

Believed to be the first in the country, the Responsible Business Scheme helps shops and their staff avoid the offence in the first place – known as the ‘due diligence defence’ in law.

More than 20 shops have already signed up and yesterday (Thursday) representatives from nine shops received certificates for completing their training. Councillor Elaine Costigan, cabinet member for public health and protection, said: "There are strict laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol and tobacco to young people because they are considered to present a real risk to their health and welfare.

"We recognise that the vast majority of businesses want to comply with the law in order to trade fairly and successfully and at the same time make a positive contribution to their local community.”

Councillor Costigan added: "Even before the launch of the scheme, 23 retailers have already signed up and many more are waiting to join, showing the popularity of the scheme.

"Last year, our Trading Standards team carried out 82 undercover test purchases with 32 per cent of shops selling an age-restricted product to a young person.

"All the offending shops were subject to tough enforcement action. I would urge retailers to join the scheme and avoid being one of the offending businesses."

Bob Charnley, Sandwell Council’s trading standards and licensing manager, said: "The scheme provides businesses with a comprehensive package of training for staff and an annual onsite audit by the trading standards team for just £159."

Mr Charnley added: "It's the sort of package you would expect to see at all the major supermarkets. With this scheme, you don't have to be a major national supermarket to protect your business from legal action such as criminal prosecution or risk losing your alcohol licence."

Mr Gurdip Bali, owner of Hilltop Wines in West Bromwich, and a member of the scheme, said: "Working in partnership with our local trading standards department, the very people who enforce the law, has helped our business to thrive and prosper.

"Their help has been invaluable in helping us to ensure the shop is fully compliant with the law surrounding the sales of alcohol and tobacco and it has been essential in building up a good reputation within the local community."

The shops who have completed their training are:

  • M&M Supermarket, Smethwick
  • Hill Top Wines, West Bromwich
  • Loco-252, Smethwick
  • WB Store, Carters Green
  • Hill Top Supermarket, West Bromwich Quality Convenience Store, Rowley Regis
  • Quality Supermarket, Wollaston
  • MGB News Ltd, Cradley Heath
  • Samras, Cradley Heath