Shops reject end to self-scanned sales

07 January, 2011

Retailers have rejected a call from an MSP for alcohol sales to be banned at self-scanning checkouts in supermarkets.

Stewart Maxwell, the SNP member for the West of Scotland, is urging retailers to suspend the sale of alcohol at self-scanning checkouts to avoid the potential for under-age sales.

Self-scan checkouts have a freeze mechanism to ensure the tills’ supervisor makes the required age checks when alcohol is scanned, but Maxwell said this wasn’t a sufficient safeguard.

He said: “When you have one person supervising sometimes eight or more tills it is ridiculous to expect them to be taking the same amount of care and attention over a person’s age as they would on an individual till. There is far less contact with the customer and far less chance to assess a person’s age.

“While introducing Challenge 25 policies will help, it is possible to see cases where till supervisors will simply be too busy to properly enforce the law.”?But the British Retail Consortium, which represents all the major supermarkets, rejected the call, saying it would lead to “confusion and extra delays” at checkouts.

Head of media and campaigns Richard Dodd said: “This is a huge overreaction to a problem that doesn’t actually exist.

“Maxwell is demonstrating he clearly doesn’t understand how age-restricted products at self-scan checkouts are sold. When alcohol is scanned the system freezes until a member of staff comes over to sanction that sale. It’s exactly the same sort of approach with staffed checkouts that has given supermarkets the best record of any type of retailer on under-age sales.”?Maxwell said he was raising his concerns after a 16-year-old at a Tesco store in Glasgow was sold alcohol in a transaction approved by a 17-year-old sales assistant through a self-service till in a test purchase exercise.

Maxwell claimed he had observed up to eight tills being overseen by a single supervisor on one visit to a supermarket. “With the increasing use of self-service tills this is an area of licensing law we should look at,” he added. “It would make much more sense for alcohol to only be for sale through a full-service till where a sales assistant can properly assess a customer’s age.”

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