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Alcohol

Retailers have been invited to trial a new age verification technology.

The call for applications was launched yesterday (18 March) by the Home Office and the Office for Product Safety and Standards.

The scheme is open to off-licence retailers, as well as bar and restaurant operators.

The trials will explore how to strengthen current measures in place to prevent those under 18 from buying alcohol, reduce violence or abuse towards shopworkers and ensure there are robust age checks on the delivery, click & collect or dispatch of alcohol.

“Having a robust age verification system is absolutely critical in preventing the sale of alcohol to children and the harm underage drinking causes,” said Baroness Williams of Trafford.

“These pilots will allow us to explore how new technology can improve the experience of buying and selling alcohol, both for the consumer and the retailer.”

It will be up to applicants to suggest products to trial within their proposals, but technology that may potentially be tested include a holographic or ultraviolet identification feature on a mobile phone.

Retailers will be able to submit applications online on gov.uk and will be required to provide detail on how the technology works and how they plan to test it.

Currently, it is not possible to use a digital ID as proof of age for the purchase of alcohol in England and Wales.

Tony Allen, chair of the Expert Panel on Age Restrictions and CEO of the Age Check Certification Scheme said: “We welcome this important initiative to properly test, evaluate and provide assurance and certification of the plethora of technologies that are emerging to help with age assurance.

“This will assist with enhancing the protection of children from harm, but also potentially reducing the levels of abuse suffered by workers in licensed premises when challenging for proof of age.

“The results of these sandbox trials, when independently evaluated, can help inform future policy development for the retail sale of alcohol.”

ACS CEO James Lowman, who sits on the board of Proof of Age Standards Scheme, said: “I’ve worked with PASS to look at common standards for accepting digital proof of age, so the government inviting these propsoals is very welcome and we will engage with this as PASS and ACS.”

Retailers will still be required to carry out physical age verification checks alongside any digital technology in line with the current law, which requires a physical identification card with a holographic mark or ultraviolet feature upon request in the sale of alcohol. 

The Office for Product Safety and Standards will be hosting a series of webinars over the next two months to assist members of the industry in drafting their proposals.

Applications will be assessed by a group of experts from a range of organisations, including the Home Office, Trading Standards, the Office for Product Safety and Standards and the Metropolitan Police.

Trials by successful applicants will begin in the summer and must be completed by April 2022. 

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