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Selling spray paint 

Storing spray paint cans

Retailers who sell spray paint cans are required by law to keep those cans either:

  • in a locked cabinet
  • in or behind a counter in such a way that customers cannot gain access to the cans without the assistance of shop staff
  • on a shelf 2.1 metres or higher
  • in any other manner prescribed by the regulations.

Spray paints which are colourless and transparent are exempt from the law.

A retailer who fails to secure spray paints as required may face a fine of up to $1,100.

Age restrictions

In NSW it is illegal to sell spray paint to anyone under the age of 18 years. The maximum penalty for contravening this requirement is $1,100.

A person who sells spray paint to a minor is not guilty of an offence if they believed on reasonable grounds that the person was of or above the age of 18 years.

If an employee sells spray paint to a minor, the employee and the employer may both be guilty of an offence, even if the employee acted without the employer’s authority or against instructions.

An employer is not guilty of an offence if they can prove that they:

  • had no knowledge of the employee’s breach
  • could not, by exercise of due diligence (eg. staff training/supervision), have prevented the breach.

Dealing with customers

If it appears that a person who wishes to buy spray paint is under 18, a retailer may ask them for proof of age. Forms of proof of age include:

  • a Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) Proof of Age card
  • driver licence
  • passport
  • birth certificate
  • other official document with the customer’s name and age or date of birth.

A person who is 18 years or older may buy spray paint cans on behalf of a minor if the product is to be used for:

  • the lawful pursuit of an occupation, education or training
  • any lawful artistic, construction, renovation or maintenance activity in the immediate vicinity of the place where the spray paint is supplied.

A retailer has the right to question customers about how they intend to use the products they are buying, and to refuse to sell products to a person of any age if they suspect that they will be used for graffiti.

Tips for dealing with a difficult customer

Here are some tips for dealing with a difficult customer:

  1. Remain calm and friendly. With a smile, firmly restate the law and store policy. Most customers will accept this approach and leave the store.
  2. Do not argue with the customer.
  3. If the customer threatens violence as a result of your refusal to sell a product, it would be best to sell them the product. This should then be reported to your manager and the police.

You can call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000

Suggested responses for difficult customers

The table below has some suggested responses that retailers and their staff may use if customers ask them questions in regard to the sale of spray paint cans.

Customer says 

Staff reply 

Why won’t you sell it to me?

a) It is illegal to sell spray paint to under 18 year olds.

b) If over 18: I’m sorry but we have the right to refuse to sell you this product. 

You have to sell it to me. I am over 18 years old.

a) Do you have some ID that shows your age?

b) If over 18: How do you intend to use the spray paint? 

What I do with this product is none of your business. Why do you care, anyway?

I have the right to make sure that you do not intend to use this product for illegal purposes such as grafitti.

My Dad sent me to buy some spray paint for a school project. Here is my note from my father.

I’m sorry but the law doesn’t allow me to sell you spray paint because you are under 18. You will have to come back with your father.

Why is the spray paint locked up or behind the counter?

The law requires me to keep spray paints in a secure manner, in order to reduce spray paint theft.

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