NFRN members will be judged on a universal set of rules regarding the sale of age-restricted products as part of a new deal with Islington Council’s Trading Standards team.

The London borough will become a primary authority for any of the federation’s 16,000 members who sign up to a scheme that means that retailers wouldn’t fall victim to varying interpretations of key laws by different authorities.

It comes in the week that all shops must cover their tobacco gantries in line with government regulation as judged by trading standards officers or face a £3,000 fine. Concerns have been voiced that cuts to trading standards budgets could lead to inconsistent policing of the law.

[pull_quote_right] Becoming a primary authority means we will be able to provide assured advice to NFRN members which has standing across the whole of the England and Wales [/pull_quote_right]

Retailers who follow Islington Trading Standards advice on age-restricted sales and tobacco regulation would, however, be immune from prosecution from their own local trading standards departments. This would be the case even when they disagree with Islington’s interpretation.

“Becoming a primary authority means we will be able to provide assured advice to NFRN members which has standing across the whole of the England and Wales,” says Doug Love, trading standards officer for Islington Council. “Other authorities would have to deal with us, not an individual retailer.”

Supermarkets such as Tesco have long dealt with one single Trading Standards department and Surrey Council acts as the primary authority for Association of Convenience Stores members.

Adrian Roper, head of public affairs and communications for the NFRN, said the scheme could be expanded to include advice on food safety and health and safety, which would be consistent nationally.

Mr Roper added that the scheme would be particularly good news for members with stores in multiple areas who previously have had to ensure their stores meet different local interpretations of national laws.

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