Skip to content Skip to footer

This advice applies to Scotland. Change country

Age discrimination - when discrimination is allowed in the provision of goods or services

Generally speaking, a trader or service provider isn’t allowed to discriminate against you because of your age. However, there are some exceptions in the Equality Act 2010.

Read this page to find out more about what doesn't count as age discrimination when you buy goods and services.

When is it not age discrimination?

Sometimes it’s lawful for a trader or service provider to provide a different service to people based on their age. The following things are not unlawful age discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

Holidays

It’s not unlawful for a holiday company to offer holidays for some age groups only - for example, over 50s cruises or Club 18-30 holidays. But the purpose of the holiday must be to bring together people of the same age and the holiday must include travel and accommodation.

These holidays can be sold to someone who isn’t in the usual age group, as long as they're treated the same as the other holiday-makers . For example, a 41 year old wanting to go on a holiday for customers in their 30s might be accepted if the company agrees, but they shouldn’t be charged any more for the holiday.

Asking for proof of age

Businesses selling goods like alcohol, fireworks and cigarettes can ask for proof of age if they think you’re under-age. They can refuse to serve you if you can’t prove how old you are. This is not unlawful age discrimination.

Concessions and discounts

Businesses are allowed to offer concessions or discounts based on age - for example, cheaper access to leisure facilities for 18-25 year olds, or pensioner lunch deals.

Residential mobile homes

Residential mobile home parks are allowed to set minimum age limits for people who want to live there. Many sites restrict residence to people aged 50 or over. Site owners must set out the age restriction clearly in the purchase or rental agreement covering the use of the home. This restriction doesn’t apply to site visitors, or to holiday parks or homes.

Site owners can provide a home to someone outside the age limit if they want to, as long as the sale or rental is not made on worse terms – for example, they can’t charge more.

Sports

It’s not unlawful under the Equality Act for sporting tournaments and other competitions, like tennis, football or chess, to set age bands for those who want to compete.

There’s a law which says people can be treated differently

There are laws which say people can be treated differently based on their age. In this case, it's not unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act if you're treated differently because of your age.

Here are examples of discrimination which are allowed under the law:

  • free TV licenses for people aged 75 and over
  • winter fuel allowance for pensioners
  • free bus passes for pensioners.

Financial services

Companies who offer financial services, like banks and insurance companies, are sometimes allowed to treat people differently because of their age.

What are financial services?

Financial services include:

  • insurance
  • banking
  • credit
  • pensions
  • investments.

What can providers of financial services do?

Age can be used to assess risk and this can be used to work out the price you pay for a financial product or whether it's made available to you.They're also allowed to set age limits and offer products to people in certain age groups only.

Financial service providers must base their risk assessments on information from a reliable source and one which is relevant to the product they are providing - for example, statistics. You can challenge financial service providers if you think a risk assessment isn't based on a reliable or relevant source of information.

Justifying age discrimination

Even if something doesn’t fall under one of the exceptions in the Equality Act, it may still be lawful for a trader or service provider to discriminate against you because of your age. In some situations it’s possible for the trader or service provider to justify discriminating against you.

When can a trader or service provider justify age discrimination?

It’s possible to justify both direct and indirect age discrimination. The trader or service provider would have to show they have a good enough reason for discriminating against you.

Here are examples of reasons service providers and traders often use to try to justify discrimination:

  • ensuring the health and safety of customers
  • protecting the welfare of individuals
  • enabling people of particular age groups to enjoy activities together
  • making sure that particular services are targeted at people who need them most.

But something may not be a good enough reason if the service provider or trader could have done things in a less discriminatory way. This will require the trader or service provider to show they considered the potentially discriminatory effects of the decision or action they took and that it was necessary to act in that way. The Equality Act says they must show the action is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

.

Example

A coach company is organising an over 60’s day trip to the seaside. You’re in your 50s and would like to go on the trip. You complain about direct age discrimination to the coach company.

The coach company says the aim of the trip is to bring older people together with a common interest. The whole trip has been organised with this in mind with specific facilities and services for older people on the coach. This could be a good enough reason.

Next steps

You can find more information about your consumer rights including holidays and financial services in the consumer section:

Other useful information

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)

If you have experienced discrimination, you can get help from the EASS discrimination helpline.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

You can find useful information about discrimination on the EHRC website at

Did this advice help?