Older people will receive new protection from discrimination from April 2012. The Equality Act 2010 will make it unlawful to unfairly discriminate against someone because of their age when providing goods and services. Specific exceptions will allow companies to continue to offer beneficial services to certain age groups.
Providers of financial services, such as insurance companies, will still be allowed to use age when assessing risk and deciding prices. However, the new law will mean they have to base such decisions on solid evidence rather than simply imposing a blanket ban. Insurers will also be asked to help people find an alternative provider if they are unable to provide cover for age-related reasons.
Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone says, “It is high time we put an end to outdated stereotypes based on age. When older people are turned away from the market place through unfair treatment, the economy misses out on increased business and revenue. These proposals will ensure that does not happen, providing new protection and support for people of all ages."
Age discrimination in the workplace has been illegal since 2006. The decision to extend this ban to the provision of goods and services follows the announcement earlier this year that the government plans to phase out the default retirement age, which can be used to force people to retire at 65 even if they don't want to.
The act will apply to all of Great Britain, but not Northern Ireland.
The law applies equally to the old and young - it will be just as unlawful for a company to unfairly refuse service to someone because they are 25 as it will be to refuse service to someone because they are 85. However, the ban does not apply to children aged under 18.
Insurance providers will still be allowed to use age when assessing risk and deciding prices. Age limits will still be permitted. However, any use of age in this manner must be based on information from a source on which it is reasonable to rely.