control purchase(??)

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Senior Member
Hello everyone,

I seriously doubt the phenomenon I'm going to write about exists in the UK or the USA but I'll do my best to describe it. We call it (literally) a "control purchase" and it is made when:

Situation 1. The police gets wind of a drug dealer in the neighbourhood and they want to catch him in the act. So they send a man (who may look like an ordinary junkie) and after the dealer sells the stuff he is handcuffed. "A control purchase"(?) has been made.

Situation 2. The protection of consumers agency receives information that customers are always served short-weight portions at a restaurant and they go to that restaurant as regular customers and after making "a control purchase"(?) they have proof enough to bring an action against the restaurant.

Can someone please tell me if there exists an English equivalent to the so-called "control purchase"?

Thank you.
  • pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    I only have experience with the first type; the law enforcement officers I've worked with have always called it a “controlled buy.”


    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Yes, such methods of catching people in the act of violating the law are used in the US. The first is often used by police working undercover, posing as addicts, to make buys from a drug dealer.

    Enforcement agencies also use play-actors to catch others—say, to discover those discriminating against people of a particular race, religion, or nationality. People of different races might be sent to inquire about a home for rent or a job, for example, to see if they are treated differently. I don't know an official name for this activity.
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