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Young people – money and consumer rights

This information applies to England, Wales and Northern Ireland

About this information

In this information child means someone aged under 14 and young person means someone aged 14 or over but under 18. Parent means someone with parental responsibility.

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Banking, credit and borrowing money

There is no legal age limit at which you can open a bank account but a bank manager can decide whether to allow a child or young person to open an account. There are restrictions on opening certain kinds of account, for example, as a young person you are not normally legally responsible for your debts so you are unlikely to be granted an overdraft.

If you are under 18, it is a criminal offence for anyone to send you material inviting you to borrow money or obtain goods or services on credit or hire purchase. However, if you are over 14 but under 18, you can enter into a credit or hire purchase agreement if an adult acts as your guarantor.

For information on guarantors and other credit issues, see Credit.

You can borrow money at any age, but access to loans may be limited because a lender will not usually be able to take a young person to court if they break the terms of a loan. This is because you cannot usually be legally held to a contract you make when you are under 18.

If you apply for a credit card when you are under 18, you will have your application turned down.

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Debt

As a child or young person, you cannot normally be taken to court for debt. This is because you cannot be legally held to a contract you make when you are under 18. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. You can be held legally responsible for any debts you run up to buy things that you need like food, shelter or clothing.

There may be other debts you can be held legally responsible for. If in doubt, consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

As a parent you are not usually under any obligation to pay the debts of your child. However, if you acted as a guarantor for a contract they entered into, you will be responsible for any debts under the agreement.

For more information on debt, see Help with debt.

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Income tax

You are taxed independently on your incomeand you are allowed a certain amount of income which is tax free, in the same way as an adult.

For more information, see Income tax.

If you are unmarried, under 18, and your parents give you money which earns investment income of over £100, this will normally count as your parent’s income and should be entered on their tax return. An example of investment income is money earned from savings in a National Savings account.

If you are under 16 in Scotland, or under 18 in England, Wales and N.Ireland, and want to make a claim to HM Revenue and Customs for repayment of overpaid tax, your parent, guardian or trustee must make the claim.

For more information, see Tax refunds.

If you are under 16, are a non-taxpayer, and have a bank or building society account that pays interest, your parents can register to stop tax being automatically deducted from the interest. If you are 16 or over, you will need to do this yourself.

For more information go to the HMRC website at www.hmrc.gov.uk.

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Buying goods and services

When you buy goods or services, you have the same rights as an adult if something goes wrong.

For information about what to do when something goes wrong with goods you have bought, see Buying goods – your rights.

For information about what to do when something goes wrong with services you have bought, see Buying services – your rights.

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Restrictions on buying goods and services

There are restrictions on children or young people buying certain goods and services.

Alcohol

For restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcohol, see Young people – health and personal.

Betting and gambling

It is an offence for anybody to have a betting transaction with a person they know, or ought to know, is under 18.

Betting shops, gaming clubs and bingo

If you are under 18 you may not go into a public betting shop or gaming club. You can go into a licensed bingo club where bingo is played as long as you do not take part in the game.

In Northern Ireland, the legal age for football pool betting is 16.

Fruit machines

In England and Wales, if you are under 16, you can go into arcades but must not play on fruit machines giving a £10 or more cash payout.

If you are between 14-18 you can go into a pub, but you are not allowed to play on fruit machines with a cash payout of £10 or more. A sign stating that the machines are restricted to over-18s must be displayed.

There is no lower age limit for playing on fruit machines with a maximum cash or token prize of up to £8.

In Northern Ireland, there is no lower age limit for playing on fruit machines with a maximum cash prize of £8 in amusement arcades and similar premises. The maximum prize in a pub is £15 cash. There is no legal age restriction on playing fruit machines in pubs, but different premises may have different rules.

Lottery tickets and scratch cards

If you are under 16, you are not allowed to buy tickets (or scratch cards) in a registered public lottery. You are allowed to buy tickets in a private lottery.

Cigarettes

For information on restrictions on the sale of cigarettes, see Young people – health and personal.

Films and videos

Film classification

There are restrictions on the films you can see in a cinema. The British Board of Film Censors issues certificates for all films as follows:-

  • U (universal) - suitable for all those aged four years or over
  • PG - unaccompanied children are admitted but parental guidance needed as some scenes are unsuitable for young children
  • 12A - no one under the age of 12 will be admitted, unless accompanied by an adult
  • 15 - no one under the age of 15 will be admitted
  • 18 - no one under the age of 18 will be admitted.

As well as these restrictions, a cinema manager has discretion over admission of any member of the public. In general, children under five outside London and under seven in London are not allowed in a cinema unless accompanied by an adult.

DVD and video classification

Most pre-recorded English language DVDs and videos have to be classified and labelled according to their suitability for viewing by different age groups. The classification categories are:

  • Uc (universal) - particularly suitable for pre-school children
  • U (universal) - suitable for all those aged four years or over
  • PG (parental guidance) - for general viewing but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
  • 12 – only suitable for people aged 12 years or over. Not to be supplied to anyone below that age
  • 15 - only suitable for people aged 15 years or over. Not to be supplied to anyone below that age
  • 18 - only suitable for people aged 18 years or over. Not to be supplied to anyone below that age
  • Restricted 18 - only to be supplied in licensed sex shops to people aged 18 or over.

It is an offence to supply a classified DVD or video to someone who is below the age specified in the classification.

It is an offence to supply an unclassified video unless it is an exempted work.

For more information about film, DVD and video classification, go to the website of The British Board of Film Classification at: www.bbfc.co.uk.

Video games

Since July 30th 2012 all video games must be age rated by the Games Rating Authority using the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) system.  Age ratings will be marked on video sleeves as 3, 7, 12, 16 or 18.

It is a criminal offence for a trader to sell any game with ratings of 12, 16 or 18 to anyone below those ages.  Age ratings for 3 and 7 year olds give you an idea of how suitable the games are and are advisory only.  

More information on the Games Rating Authority at: www.videostandards.org.uk.

More information on the Pan European Game Information rating system used by the Games Rating Authority at: www.pegi.info.

More on the British Board of Film Classification and video games at: www.bbfc.co.uk.

Solvents

It is against the law to sell solvents to children and young people if the seller knows that the solvents are going to be abused. It is also against the law to sell butane gas cigarette lighter refills to anyone under 18 under any circumstances.

For information about glue sniffing and other solvent abuse, see under heading Glue sniffing and other solvent abuse, in Young people - health and personal.

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Sunbeds

If you are under 18 you are not allowed to use a sunbed in a hotel, beauty salon, leisure centre or gym. It is against the law for any business to let you use a sunbed or be in an area reserved for sunbed users.

A sunbed is defined in law as 'an electrically-powered device designed to produce tanning of the human skin by the emission of ultra-violet radiation'.

Mobile phones

If you are under 18, you cannot enter into a monthly contract for a mobile phone. However, you can buy a pay as you go mobile phone as this does not require a contract.

For information about mobile phones, see Mobile phones.

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Further information for young people

Further information about money

Thesite.org is a website which has information about money aimed at young adults. This includes how to manage your money, credit and debt, gambling, student money and choosing a bank. If you're aged between 16 and 25, you can email a question about money and other issues to askTheSite, and get a personal answer back. Go to: www.thesite.org.

Other rights

You can find more information about the rights of children and young people elsewhere in Adviceguide.

For information about the general rights of children and young people, see Young people's rights.
For information about employment, see Young people and employment.
For information about housing, see Young people and housing.
For information about family matters, see Young people and family.
For information about benefits, see Young people and benefits.
For information about health and personal issues, see. Young people – health and personal.
For information about the law and young people, see Young people and the law.
For information about transport, see Young people – travel and transport.

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