More and more businesses are opting for ecommerce over brick-and-mortar. However, there’s one sector that’s grow rapidly online over the last three years – businesses selling age-restricted products on their websites.
This would include online vape shops, online smoke shops, and liquor delivery services.
Like a traditional retail location, websites must verify age. You might be wondering: How do websites verify age? And what online age verification methods exist?
Technology has moved swiftly. Now, online age verification software can quickly and more accurately help websites check age. These systems typically use a combination of driver’s license scans, selfie detection, and proof verification (cross-checking against public data) to verify age online.
Interested how your business can sell age-restricted products online? This guide covers everything you need to know about online age verification for ecommerce.
A Growing Need for Online Age Verification
Online sales of alcohol and age-restricted products are booming. In fact, IWSR predicts that by 2024, the market for online alcohol sales will reach $45.5 billion. This growth is leaving businesses susceptible to ineffective online age verification. Failing to properly stop and spot fake IDs online can result in lost revenue, lost licenses, and more.
For instance, a University of North Carolina (UNC) study revealed that 45 out of 100 efforts by minors to buy alcohol online were successful. The minors would make up an age and date of birth, but they had to cooperate if requested to produce identification.
The study identified numerous flaws in the conventional age verification procedures used by internet retailers and proposed a potential fix. Only 3 out of the 39 sellers who demanded a date of birth denied orders. All five of the retailers who asked for a driver’s license number denied orders.
Minors are also getting around regulations by purchasing alcohol through food-delivery apps and services.
The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) launched a number of delivery driver sting operations in response to this problem to catch individuals and companies making deliveries to minors without taking the necessary precautions.
Ultimately, failing to check IDs or selling alcohol to minors even inadvertly may put your business at legal risk.
How to Verify Age Online: Where to Start
Age verification software is the most efficient way for online sellers to confirm a customer’s age. Other approaches include in-store pickups and relying on delivery employees, though the latter approach isn’t always successful.
In most cases, age verification software operates by requesting personally identifiable information (PII) from customers, such as name, address, and birthday, and then cross-referencing that information against databases like the electoral register or credit agency records.
These systems verify the buyer’s identity and age, unlike age gates. Today, cutting-edge tools also include live selfie detection to prove a photo has been taken, and then use biometrics and facial recognition to confirm the selfie matches an ID photo.
What to Consider with Online Age Verification Software
As you shop for online ID scanning tools and online age verification software, choose a platform that:
- Obeys the law.
- Is serious about data security.
- If you also sell unrestricted products, you can verify customers for those products so that you don’t deter all young users.
- Depending on the restricted products you sell, you can alter the minimum ages.
- Provides a positive user experience.
How FTx Identity Works
With FTx Identity, a customer is verified online using facial recognition. Customers must:
- Take a selfie (with liveness detection)
- Upload images of their driver’s license
- Answer questions about their data (proof verification)
After completing a purchase, the customer is then sent a QR code or a 4-digit code. This code is then presented during delivery for the products to be released.
Other Ways to Sell Age-Restricted Products Online
If you don’t have a tool that can verify age online, like an ID scanner with live selfie detection, there are methods you can use to sell your products online.
The two most common include:
- In-Store Pickups
Having customers pick up their online items in-store allows staff to do a face-to-face ID check. It’s crucial to train staff members to correctly check someone’s age using this method while upholding excellent customer service. In many establishments today, ID scanners are widely used, helping to ensure compliance.
- Offer Deliveries
Delivery service can be great. However, it’s important that you provide thorough training to your delivery staff on property ID checking protocol. Delivery can introduce some problems though like customers not being present, or minors being present at the delivery location.
Online Age Verification: Step-by-Step Process for Websites
To add secure age verification to your website, use the instructions below.
- Develop internal processes
In addition to federal restrictions, check your local and state laws. Verify the rules of your eCommerce platform, if you use one. Keep track of the minimum and maximum ages that apply to each of your age-restricted products. Choose an age verification method, in-store pickups, delivery personnel verification, or a combination of the aforementioned to use (recommended). Choose the software and services you will use specifically for the aforementioned.
- Update your website
Collaborate with your web development team to integrate age into your website. You should include language on your website warning users about age-restricted products. Pop-up windows or product descriptions are two ways to achieve this. FTx Identity includes an API and SDK for developers.
- Train your staff
Provide age-verification rules and procedures training to all customer-facing staff members who handle orders and returns. If necessary, instruct all staff members on-site.
- Perform risk assessments
Establish a schedule for performing risk assessments. Undertake risk assessments to identify areas where your age verification procedure is vulnerable and potential loopholes. Revise procedures to address any flaws identified by your review. Adapt to new verification standards and technology, or hire someone to do it for you.
FAQs: Online Age Verification
These are the most common questions we hear about online age verification, ID scan software, and selling age-restricted products online.
Q. What products require ID checking online in the US?
Some common age-restricted products, besides alcohol, include:
- Aerosol paint: 18+
- Cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vape: 21+
- Dating apps (age varies, but 17+ is common)
- Lottery tickets: 18+
- M-rated video games: 17+
- Adult content: 18+
Q. Who is in charge of ensuring that customers are old enough to purchase products with age restrictions?
Whether they sell in person or online, retailers are responsible for ensuring that customers are of legal purchasing age. Typically, third parties like delivery providers are not accountable and cannot be held responsible. Retailers must have safe age verification methods in place for this reason.
Q. What would occur if you offered products to a minor?
If you do business with someone who is under the legal age limit, you and your company risk penalties, legal action, jail time, and license revocation. You can be protected if a product ends up in the wrong hands by using age verification that complies with regulatory regulations.
Q. How doesn’t work in helping websites verify age online?
There are a lot of ineffective strategies used by ecommerce businesses to determine customers’ and website visitors’ ages. The issue is that many of these strategies, which were picked for their ease of use, are ineffective and won’t satisfy your legal obligation. They include:
- Requesting the buyer’s name.
- Requesting proof of legal age from the buyer.
- Requesting the customer to provide their birth date.
- Providing a disclaimer that states that buyers must be [age] or that they are attesting to that fact by making a purchase.
- Users must “accept” the terms and conditions and confirm their legal age before using the service.
- Only accepting payment via credit cards. A payment system might not be able to distinguish between some debit and prepaid cards that are available to minors.
Q. What are legal requirements for online age verification?
Online sellers of alcohol must use verification procedures that check ID or match the buyer’s name, address, and date of birth to data records. The FDA has stepped up its enforcement in recent years and has explicitly stated that it will pinpoint retailers “without independent, third-party age verification software that compare customer information against third-party data sources, such as public records,” prioritizing enforcement.
Q. Is first-purchase screening effective?
By “first-purchase screening,” we imply confirming a customer’s age only once, during their initial purchase on your website. Currently, some websites validate users’ information when they create an account, removing the need for verification for subsequent purchases made with that account. The issue with this method is that others, even kids, can use the same computer or borrow the account.
Q. Are you advertising your products online legally?
Make sure to familiarize yourself with the Federal Trade Commission’s advertising and marketing guidelines while promoting your age-restricted products online. Consider these three factors:
- Make sure that any claims made in advertisements are accurate, not misleading, and contain all relevant disclosures.
- Use ad locations that reduce the possibility of impressions from users who are underage.
- Digital advertisements should have age filters to only target people who are of legal purchasing age.
Online age checks safeguard you and your company from legal repercussions. Need some help? Demo FTx Identity’s digital identity verification platform. Our platform makes it easy to perform online age verification, check IDs in-store, or using a hybrid approach.