Poor practices in the sunbed industry have been revealed in a mystery shopping sting, with two operators breaking the law.

Two sunbed salons let an underage shopper have a sunbed session, while six let a person with fair skin that burns easily use a sunbed, according to Consumer NZ.

Since January 2017 it is illegal to allow under-18s to use a sunbed, with fines of up to $10,000 for non-compliance.

At Fred & Ginger's Hair & Beauty Salon in Invercargill, the 16-year-old mystery shopper's age was not checked, and he was only given a consent form upon leaving, Consumer NZ said.


Salon owner Natasha King said stronger checks would be brought in immediately "to ensure this doesn't happen again".

At Solaris Clinic in Botany, Auckland, the 15-year-old shopper stated her age on the consent form, but was still allowed to have a session as the staff member did not check the form. Her session was cut short when the clinic operator realised her age.

Clinic owner Michael Wojcik said the staff member who allowed the sunbed was undergoing training and forgot to check the shopper's age. New R18 stickers had been placed in reception, and the age restriction had been highlighted on client forms after the incident.

Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said the operators' behaviour was a significant concern.

"Using a sunbed is a health risk regardless of age or skin type, but people under 18 or with fair skin are at greater risk of suffering lasting and serious damage," she said.

The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer states using a tanning device before age 30 increases the risk of melanoma by 75 per cent.

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In the survey - funded by the Ministry of Health and carried out last October - Consumer NZ's mystery shoppers also visited 40 operators to check compliance with key safety guidelines in the voluntary sunbed standard.

"We found little improvement in overall compliance since our 2015 survey. Forty-five per cent of operators failed to implement basic checks," Chetwin said.

Under the voluntary standard, people using a sunbed should be given a consent form to sign to ensure they're over 18, informed of the risks and made aware of the importance of wearing protective goggles. Thirteen operators didn't provide shoppers with a consent form.

Eight operators didn't do a formal skin assessment, which is important because certain skin types are more susceptible to UV damage. Two Christchurch operators provided no eye protection, despite UV rays increasing the risk of cataracts.

Chetwin said over more than a decade of mystery shopping sunbed operators, the results had been "consistently disappointing".

"Operators ignore or don't understand the requirements, and this isn't adequately protecting consumers."

She wanted to see all sunbeds banned, as in Brazil and most states of Australia.