The government has closed a loophole that could have left retailers operating the ‘Challenge 25’ age-verification scheme vulnerable to legal challenges.

Under the age discrimination aspect of the Equalities Act 2010 it is an offence to discriminate against an adult and deny them access to services based on their age. However, following a consultation last year on the implementation of age discrimination rules, the government has decided to include a specific exemption for age-verification schemes such as ‘Challenge 25’.

The age discrimination regulations and amendments will be implemented from 1 October 2012, subject to Parliamentary approval.

Both the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) and Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) had lobbied the government to include the amendment.

ACS chief executive James Lowman welcomed the exemption. “Preventing under-age sales is a priority for both government and retailers, and age-verification schemes such as ‘Challenge 25’ play a key role in achieving that,” he said. “Asking someone over the age of 18 to show ID is not age discrimination, it is a proportionate way of preventing children from buying a product they are too young to buy. The ‘exception’ for age-verification policies like ‘Challenge 25’ removes any grey areas and will allow retailers to continue their efforts to prevent underage sales in stores.”

Gavin Partington, communications director at the WSTA said: “The government have rightly listened to the concerns of retailers, small and large, who want to ensure they have the strongest age-verification policy in place in an effort to tackle underage sales. While the government never intended for these schemes to be caught up in this legislation, it was crucial that this exemption has been added to ensure that any legal uncertainty could be avoided.”