Home Office seeks proposals for age-verification technology for alcohol sales

Written by Sam Trendall on 19 March 2021 in News

Department to run a ‘regulatory sandbox’ exercise

Credit: Philosophy Geek/CC BY-SA 2.0

The government is seeking proposals for age-verification technology that could be used in the purchase of alcohol.

The Home Office and consumer goods regulator the Office for Product Safety and Standards have teamed up to run a “regulatory sandbox” exercise which will allow controlled trials of experimental ideas and technologies with the cooperation of government and regulators, as well as local law enforcement and licensees. Trials of the chosen submissions “will run for a set period of time in an agreed number of locations” the government said.

Proposals are being sought for “digital ID and other products with age-assurance attributes”.

OPSS said that it wishes to find technologies that “enhance the likelihood of preventing” children from buying alcohol, as well as those which are likely to reduce violence or abuse against staff in pubs and off-licences. 

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The technologies in question should ultimately reduce the current burdens placed on businesses in verifying customers’ age.

In addition to in-person sales, the regulator is also interested in tech that can provide “secure effective controls on delivery, click and collect or dispatch of alcohol”, as well as ensuring the “protection of personal data of customers purchasing alcohol”.

“Proposals can relate to the retail sale of alcohol, on or off licensed premises, supply in clubs or postal, remote or novel manners of the delivery of alcohol,” the OPSS said. “They can include new or emerging technologies, delivery channels or operational processes.”

Proposals are open until 4pm on 30 May. Successful applicants will be chosen by 2 July; trials will then begin over the summer and conclude by April 2022.

Home Office minister baroness Williams of Trafford said: “Having a robust age-verification system is absolutely critical in preventing the sale of alcohol to children and the harm underage drinking causes. 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.”


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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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