Alcohol Licensing Age Verification Consultation Opens

6th February 2024

Trainee Solicitor, Abby Mercer discusses the current consultation open that is evaluating the age verification of alcohol.

A comprehensive examination of age verification technology and its interaction with the Licensing Act 2003 has been initiated in England and Wales, from January 2024, closing 30th March 2024.

Operators will be aware that mandatory licensing conditions currently require operators to ensure that an age verification policy is adopted at their premises, which must require individuals who appear to be under 18 years of age (or an older age if the policy specifies) to produce identification. The mandatory condition refers to identification being of a type which bears a photograph, date of birth and a holographic mark or ultraviolet feature.

However, digital age verification and identification technology is now becoming increasingly common. This technology could clearly be helpful in revolutionising the way that age is verified when purchasing alcohol (and indeed other items). However, the current wording of the Act clearly did not conceive of this sort of technology.

As such, this consultation now seeks feedback from stakeholders, including hospitality and retail operators as to the possibility of more widespread use of such technology throughout the sectors.

The primary objective of the consultation is to evaluate and potentially revise the procedures used to verify the age of customers attempting to purchase alcohol. The focus is on striking a balance between preventing underage drinking and ensuring a smooth and convenient experience for responsible consumers.

The consultation process is expected to involve open discussions, surveys, and expert opinions to formulate recommendations for improvements.

It will include an examination of the existing methods employed by establishments, such as bars, restaurants, and retail outlets, to verify the age of individuals seeking to purchase alcohol. With a huge increase in online purchases of alcohol since the Licensing Act 2003 came into force, the effectiveness of age verification when purchases are not made face-to-face will also be a focus.

The need for amendments to existing alcohol licensing laws and regulations to strengthen or change age verification requirements will be assessed with a report published following the end of the 8 week consultation. The options set out by the government following the end of the consultation, will include:

  • Doing nothing – and specifying that only traditional identification documents are acceptable; or
  • Allowing digital identities to be used alongside traditional identification documents; or
  • Allowing age estimate technology to be used alongside traditional identification documents; and
  • Updating legislation or guidance with regards to identification and intoxication checks at the point of delivery for remote sales.

If you are a business owner likely to be affected by the outcome of this consultation, the government wants to hear your views. You can complete the government questionnaire here.

If you have any questions about the current laws in relation to age verification or how any proposed changes could impact you, contact our Tier 1 Legal 500 Licensing Team on 0161 832 3434.

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