Open consultation: Alcohol licensing: age verification

Home Office

January 24
14:22 2024

The government is consulting on whether to allow digital identities and technology to play a role in age verification for alcohol sales, as well as whether to amend legislation in order to specify that for sales of alcohol that do not take place face to face, age verification should take place at the point of delivery as well as sale.

The Licensing Act 2003 (the act) covers the retail sale and supply of alcohol. One of the licensing objectives that the act seeks to uphold is the protection of children from harm, meaning that alcohol must not be sold to someone under 18. Currently, if anyone appears to be under 18, they need to produce identification which bears their photograph, date of birth and either a holographic mark or ultraviolet feature. In practice this means that currently only physical identity documents are permitted.

The government is keen to enable the secure and appropriate use of new technologies that can improve the experience of consumers and retailers. We are therefore consulting on whether to amend the act so as to allow digital identities and technology to play a role in age verification.

The need for robust national standards for digital identities and technology remains paramount in order to provide confidence to retailers and consumers alike that they are fit for purpose. Any change would reflect the wider cross-government position on the use of digital identities and technology for the sale of age-restricted products and will only take effect once there are government approved national standards in place.

We are also considering whether the act adequately covers transactions that do not take place face to face. Currently the act only sets out a requirement to verify age at the point of sale or appropriation to a contract, not at the point of delivery. We are reviewing whether this is still right and whether there should additionally be checks at the point of delivery and / or service. We are consulting on whether to amend the act so that it is explicit about when age verification must take place.

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