Retailers cautioned over face masks and hand sanitisers

08 June 2020, 23:45 PM
  • Advice comes as some seek to take advantage of ongoing pandemic post-lockdown
Retailers cautioned over face masks and hand sanitisers

Retailers are being urged to stay vigilant post-lockdown as wearing face masks becomes the new normal for shoppers.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has worked with Trading Standards to provide guidance to local shops regarding the sale of age-restricted products to customers wearing face masks. The advice includes continuing to enforce Challenge 25 policies, requesting proof of ID if age is in doubt, or refusing the sale if a retailer can’t confidently assess the customer’s age. Retailers may also ask customers to briefly remove their mask or face covering in order to verify age; if a customer is unwilling to do so, the retailer may refuse the sale. ACS has also created a poster for retailers to communicate this advice to customers in-store.

“Local shops have made a momentous effort to ensure that they can continue to serve their customers safely, and an important part of this is the responsible sale of age-restricted products,” ACS chief executive James Lowman said.

“We have received this important clarification from Trading Standards, and this best practice advice will help retailers navigate the sale of age-restricted products in light of the ongoing situation with the coronavirus outbreak.”

Retailers are also being urged to stick to trusted sources when purchasing PPE such as facemasks, gloves and hand sanitiser for customers and staff. The caution follows fears that fake PPE products could be circulating as some seek to profit from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) has been clamping down on unsafe PPE. At the beginning of May, the Government office revealed it had confiscated 700,000 face masks at East Midlands Airport that were deemed unreliable, whilst the London Trading Standards revealed it has confiscated over six million poor-quality face masks and thousands of counterfeit hand sanitisers at Heathrow Airport since the onset of the pandemic. Many of the fake sanitisers have been branded as leading names such as Comfort and Andrex, whilst face masks that were seized were labelled with false claims or fake safety certificates.

OPSS also revealed that it has seen a rise in sales of counterfeit or non-compliant face masks and hand sanitisers being sold online, in shops and at markets.

The Government’s current advice includes wearing face masks when in “enclosed public spaces where you may be more likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet”.

However, ministers are now facing mounted pressure over rules on face masks in the UK. It comes as the World Health Organization noted that simple face coverings offer no protection. WHO recently reconsidered its stance, and is now in favour of the public wearing masks, however its guidance contradicts the UK Government’s statement that masks can be made from anything such as simple scarves or T-shirts. In contrast, WHO recommends wearing more complex face coverings comprised of three layers of fabric when out in public places where social distancing isn’t possible, such as in grocery stores and in closed settings such as schools and places of worship. It also recommends that over-60s wear medical-grade masks when in public.

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