A ban on age discrimination in the provision of goods, services and facilities comes into force on 1 October 2012.

Part 3 of the Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination, harassment and victimisation by private individuals, companies or public bodies which provide services, goods and facilities.

Businesses and public bodies will need to ensure that they do not discriminate against customers or victimise them on the basis of age:

  • by not providing them with a service; or
  • as to the terms on which the service is provided, by terminating the provision of the service to them or by subjecting them to any other detriment.

The ban does not protect people who are under 18 years of age from age discrimination (so, for example, it cannot be used to give minors a reason to object to a refusal to sell them alcohol on the basis of their age).

The general exceptions in the Equality Act 2010 will apply. This includes 'objective justification', so age discrimination will not be prohibited if it is possible to demonstrate, if challenged, that there is good reason to justify it.

In addition, a draft Exceptions Order is expected to be presented before Parliament this summer and brought into force also on 1 October 2012. This is expected to specifically set out the following exceptions to the ban:

  • age-based concessions
  • age-related holidays
  • age verification
  • clubs and associations concessions
  • financial services
  • immigration
  • residential park homes
  • sport

It is also likely that an exception to allow businesses to use age in determining eligibility for discounts, concessions or benefits will be introduced.

The Government intends to publish guidance to help businesses and organisations familiarise themselves with their responsibilities and comply with the new laws before 1 October 2012.

While it is likely that most providers of goods, services and facilities will be able to continue to operate as usual after the ban is implemented, we recommend that they should:

  • take the time before October to review existing practices for any potential age discrimination;
  • look out for the forthcoming Government guidance and ensure compliance with this ban.