Legal Age Verification - £1 Million Fines for Poor Knife Sale

One of many sectors in which Serve Legal conduct compliance testing is the sale of knives and bladed articles. In order to support our clients, we offer monthly and quarterly age verification testing to sites that sell bladed products using both our ‘Show ID’ and ‘No-ID’ audit process. 

Test Purchasing Results

Our Serve Legal data highlights how 16.2% of Knife Audits are recorded as ‘Fail’ results – meaning the under 20 year old auditor (mystery shopper) was able to purchase the knife without the need to show their identification. Rates of compliance for age verification vary further as we analyze our Serve Legal data by sector, with Homeware Stores achieving a 92% compliance rate and Supermarkets having an 84% compliance. To further our understanding of ID compliance within this sector, we recently conducted some sample audits across multiple retailer formats. These concluded that one in three test purchases did not ask the auditor for ID.

Legal Age Verification & Compliance

Through testing the UK’s leading retailers for knifes and bladed articles, we found that rates of compliance varied significantly across the sector: with incidences of auditors asked for ID ranging from as low as 20% to 100%. In addition to in-store testing, our data highlighted a concerning lack of compliance from online knife retailers with the highest performing online retailer achieving just a 25% compliance rate for online age verification.


Following the 2022 update of the Offensive Weapons Act, a recent publication from the Sentencing Council highlighted new sentencing guidelines for retailers convicted of selling knives to underaged customers, coming into force from April 1st 2023. From small shop owners to large organizations, if found guilty of an unsolicited sale, fines can be issued of up to £1 million - with fines linked to turnover. Members of the Sentencing Council’s Magistrates Court acknowledged the danger of knives getting in the hands of young people. The new rules issued by the court aim to remind retailers of their duty to safeguard the customers they are selling to. 

How Serve Legal Can Help with  Age Verification Testing

Serve Legal supports retailers with test purchasing and helps them in their mission to keep their customers and society safe when it comes to the sale of knives and bladed articles to underage customers. The statistics presented above from our data highlight how knife retailers have the potential to reach 100% compliance for age related checks. This can only be achieved when businesses prioritize staff training, customer safety and independent testing of compliance with these policies. At Serve Legal, we are the experts in supporting both instore and online businesses to monitor and reduce this risk.