Having recently had a crack on the knuckles from Ebay for selling a multi-function tool that had a knife blade, I thought I’d check up on the UK legislation on selling knives online.
Ebay policy on knives
Ebay’s policy is explained here but in a nutshell, you can only sell
- dining cutlery sets that include knives used for eating
- letter openers
- Razor blades and surgical blades
- Tools such as chisels, axes, saws and hoof trimming tools
So you can sell a chainsaw, an axe, a circular saw but not a craft knife or multi-tool.
UK knife law
The legislation that covers this is Section 141 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 which (for England and Wales) states*
(1)Any person who sells to a person under the age of eighteen years an article to which this section applies shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or both.
(2)Subject to subsection (3) below, this section applies to—
(a)any knife, knife blade or razor blade,
(b)any axe, and
(c)any other article which has a blade or which is sharply pointed and which is made or adapted for use for causing injury to the person.
(3)This section does not apply to any article described in—
(a)section 1 of the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959,
(b)an order made under section 141(2) of this Act, or
(c)an order made by the Secretary of State under this section.
(4)It shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under subsection (1) above to prove that he took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of the offence.
* the legislation is under review and subject to amendment. Check the official site for the most up to date information
So what can retailers do to prove all reasonable precautions were taken. Southwark Trading Standards carried out an interesting exercise in 2009 in purchasing knives online, showing that 93% of online retailers were non-compliant, compared to 19% for knives shops purchased in person by under 18s. It is not a defence to say only 18+ can own a credit or debit card as in this exercise “they used prepaid cards which they had registered by submitting their true names and ages.”
In the case of Southwark, the online retailers were given warnings and were subjected to further checks.
I would be interested to know of people’s experiences of age verification services /software, especially in the UK.