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Call for trials of age-verification technology in alcohol sales Published Date: 21/03/2021

The Home Office and the Office for Product Safety and Standards have issued a call for proposals from technology providers to run trials of innovative age-assurance solutions regarding the retail sale of alcohol.

The government is in the process of developing plans to unlock the digital economy, improve access to services, safeguard privacy and combat fraud through the expansion in the use of digital identities. In principle, this will allow people to establish their identity digitally, rather than relying on physical documents. A potential challenge to this development is the mandatory condition set out in paragraph 3 of the Schedule to the Licensing Act 2003 (Mandatory Licensing Conditions) Order 2010, which requires presentation of identification bearing a holographic mark or ultraviolet feature upon request when purchasing alcohol.

Therefore, in support of the government’s plans for broader use of digital technology in everyday life, the Home Office has worked with the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) to develop proposals for a Regulatory ‘Sandbox’ to allow the trial of technologies that can fulfil the requirement for age verification in the retail sale of alcohol. Current legal requirements will continue to apply, but the ‘regulatory sandbox’ will support experimentation and testing of innovative technology in a live environment.

This is intended to enable industry and retail to test innovative approaches to age verification, such as digital ID and other products with age assurance attributes, in the specific context of the sale of alcohol under the Licensing Act 2003.

The Home Office have published Guidance for Applicants and Guidance for Responsible Authorities. There is also an Online Form for applicants to fill out to submit their trial or trials for consideration. This is not a competition, in the sense that there is no limit on the number of trials that can be approved, but it is critically important that they are locally led – so applicants will need to ensure that the local police, licensing authority and trading standards on board with the product to be trialled BEFORE proposals are submitted.

The closing date for trial proposals to be submitted is 4pm on 30th May 2021.

The government has published the first working version of the digital ID and attributes trust framework. As this framework develops, the trials will contribute to this work by testing the practical use of age verification technology in real world situations and building our understanding of the implications.

A number of sessions have been set up to provide opportunities to discuss the sandbox and application process.

Click on the links to sign up to the appropriate session(s) through Eventbrite.

Introduction to the call for proposals, 30 March

Introduction to the call for proposals, 7 April

Guidance for Applicants, 15 April

Guidance for Applicants, 29 April

Guidance for Responsible Authorities, 15 April

Guidance for Responsible Authorities, 29 April

Proposals for trials can be submitted up until 4pm on 30 May 2021.

Trial Evaluations

The Age Check Certification Scheme (ACCS) are offering a service to assist with the Evaluations that are required for the trials.  ACCS will not be running any trials themselves and will be maintain confidentiality between any of the trials that they evaluate.  Evaluation Scoping days can be booked with ACCS via this link.   A detailed guidance pack on how to undertake evaluation of the trials, what is expected in proposals and some of the issues that can be evaluated to anyone commissioning the ACCS evaluation services.   It is important to note that any  suitably qualified and independent organisation can be used to conduct evaluations.