Following the publication of guidance in August, age discrimination in the provision of goods and services became unlawful on 1 October 2012. This means that it is unlawful to treat people differently in the provision of services on the basis of age.

There are a number of explicit exceptions, for example -

  • age based concessions (eg discounted entrance charges for over 65s and under 18s) remain lawful
  • age based concessions in clubs and associations (eg discounted membership charges)
  • when selling age restricted goods (such as alcohol), a business can operate a policy of requiring people who look younger than a certain age to provide proof of their age (but the business must display a notice declaring the policy)
  • in sport, age limits and age bands are permitted where they are necessary for fair competition, the safety of competitors or to comply with sport governing body rules. Sport covers physical games like rugby and "thinking" games like chess
  • age based holidays (eg Club 18-30 and Saga) can continue - offering holidays where the purpose is to bring together certain age groups
  • financial service providers (eg banks and insurers) can use age as a factor in assessing risk and so charges for their products
  • the immigration authorities are permitted to use age as a criterion for their decision making.

Even where there is no exception, providers of goods and services may be able to defend an allegation of age discrimination provided they can show that their actions were objectively justified. Positive action to overcome disadvantages suffered by individuals because of their age may also be permitted.

So far there have been few reports of shopkeepers and businesses facing a barrage of complaints about age-based discrimination. We recommend that any age-based practices are reviewed to ensure that they are not unlawfully discriminatory before a challenge is received.