Answer given by Mr Barnier on behalf of the Commission
The practice of service providers discriminating on the grounds of nationality or residence of the service recipient is dealt with specifically by Art. 20§2 of Directive 2006/123/EC on Services in the internal market (the ‘Services Directive’). According to this provision, ‘Member States shall ensure that the general conditions of access to a service, which are made available to the public at large by the provider, do not contain discriminatory provisions relating to the nationality or place of residence of the recipients’.
Differences in the conditions of access may be allowed only when they are justified by objective criteria.
Refusing the provision of a service, in this case purchase of alcohol, because valid identity documents provided for proving the citizen's age are not recognised by the service provider would appear to constitute a restriction of access to the said service based on nationality.
The Commission Services will inform the European Consumer Centre (ECC) in the UK about the matter mentioned by the Honourable Member and will discuss, together with the ECC, the appropriate course of action. If necessary, the Commission Services will also contact the UK authorities in order to ensure that the rules of the directive are correctly applied.
In order to raise awareness of EU rules among citizens and national authorities, the Commission Services will publish shortly a practical guide for consumers entitled ‘Buying services everywhere in the EU’.