Discrimination in pricing and in the availability of goods and services
The Equality Act prohibits less favourable treatment of a person on the basis of gender, gender identity or gender expression in the provision of goods and services generally available to the public.
The pricing system used by traders may not be based on the customer's gender. For example, a barber or hairdresser may offer their customers a service in accordance with their business idea and professional skills, but the pricing of the services must not be based on the customer's gender, but instead on the actions carried out as part of the service. An entrepreneur in the hairstyling industry must provide services to both women and men. A woman can also be a barber's client. When refusing to provide services to a female client, a barber shop would act contrary to the Equality Act.
The goal is not to block all kinds of differential treatment, but rather to prevent unfair treatment. It is for example possible to have offers of minor value for Mother's Day, Father's Day or International Women's Day, and sports clubs and societies may also offer small, temporary discounts for one gender. Different pricing on season tickets for men and women would, however, be violation of the Equality Act.
Nevertheless, the supply of goods and services solely or primarily to representatives of one gender is permissible if it is justified in pursuit of a legitimate objective, and appropriate and necessary means are used in order to achieve that goal. Such objectives would include, for example, the protection of victims from gender-based violence, reasons of privacy or decency, or the organising of sports activities.
Any sexual or gender-based harassment committed by a provider of goods or services also counts as discrimination, as does, for example, the refusal to offer goods or services to someone who has claimed discrimination or to their witnesses. The prohibition of discrimination does not apply to media or advertising content or to education and training.
A supplier of goods and services who violates the Equality Act can be sentenced in court to pay compensation to the victim. When the amount of the compensation is being determined, the nature, extent and duration of the discrimination will always be taken into account. The compensation may also be reduced or waived completely if this is deemed reasonable in view of the offender’s financial situation, attempts to prevent or eliminate the effects of the action, or other circumstances.
Further information on compensation under the Equality Act and demanding compensation is available on the webpage Compensation and how to demand it.
Do you suspect discrimination?
Contact the supplier of goods or services so that they can correct their conduct.
If you suspect that you have been discriminated against, you can ask the Ombudsman for Equality for advice.