Real Age Verification – Getting Beyond the Button

In their most basic form, age screeners only require users to click a button to confirm that they are of age (often with the “right” option green, and the “wrong” option red).  Other iterations of this approach may require a user to check a box or enter their date of birth.  Few people would attempt to argue that such requirements would actually prevent underage purchase, but those who need evidence that these screeners are ineffective can refer to this study by the University of North Carolina.

The reality is that physical locations that sell or serve age-restricted products are required to check IDs for a reason, namely that underage buyers will use deceit to access the products.  This reality is not lost on Website owners, designers, or developers responsible for implementation of these age screeners – most don’t actually expect them to work.  There are three reasons why these types of age screeners are still prolific online:

  • Some Website owners don’t realize there are alternatives.  While online identity verification methods are not new (EVS has been providing this service for 15 years), it is a niche industry, and not all Website owners are aware of how more advanced age screening is possible online.
  • Some Website owners think there are too many barriers for more advanced age screening.  Owners of small to medium sized businesses may feel that advanced age screening is too complex or too expensive to implement.
  • Some Website owners don’t actually want to prevent underage sales.  These Website owners are simply looking for legal cover to claim that they do not sell to underage consumers, but still want the revenue that comes from those sales.

While there is a lack of clarity regarding what is legally considered “due diligence” in online age screening, those implementing such shallow screening methods may find it difficult to defend their efforts.  There are legal consequences for allowing access to age-restricted products for underage consumers – depending on the location those consequences may involve fines or even criminal penalties. 

The good news is that there are alternatives that allow for real age verification online by verifying the identity of consumers that are purchasing age-restricted products. Electronic Verification Systems (EVS) offers solutions that are both cost-effective and simple for businesses of all sizes.  

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