Alcohol E-Commerce and Age Verification

Alcohol E-Commerce and Age Verification

Having alcohol delivered to your door by Amazon sounds like something that already happens. Except that it doesn’t – not yet, anyway. Currently only 2% of alcohol is sold online in the US, which means there’s a billion-dollar industry just waiting to be set in motion. A few smaller players have been testing the market in the US, but now the idea is being given serious attention by Amazon, Target and Walmart. So, why isn’t it already happening?

Why Have Online Alcohol Sales Taken So Long?

All the major online retailers recognise the opportunity alcohol e-commerce services afford but the legal framework is a major barrier to success. In the US the liquor laws are extremely complex. Alcohol sales are governed by a three-tier system separating manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. Then there are the age regulations governing the sale of liquor which would require the adoption of robust age verification.

Online giants like Walmart and Amazon are currently considering the logistics of offering an alcohol delivery service, given the legal minefield it will encounter. Is e-commerce feasible, or would the more traditional model of ‘buy online and pick up in-store’ work better? And how will local deliveries negotiate the ‘blue laws’ governing individual state restrictions on the consumption of alcohol? Is the necessary scaling even possible?

Age Verification for Alcohol Sales in the UK

The UK is considered to have one of the most mature markets for purchasing alcohol online. The large supermarkets include alcohol in their online ordering and are already facing the same logistical problems that Amazon and Walmart will encounter. So how do they manage age restrictions? Tesco advises that “customers may be required to verify their age when making a purchase in-store or online”.  Sainsbury’s state that all deliveries of alcohol must be received by an adult, and that age checks may take place at the point of delivery, or at checkouts.

If the market grows substantially in the UK, large online retailers could find themselves having to consider more robust online age checking to supplement their offline verification systems. Online age verification is currently being used successfully in the UK for the online sale of knives and tobacco products. This would suggest that it provides a viable model for alcohol e-commerce.

About AgeChecked

AgeChecked provides online age verification for websites that sell age-restricted goods and services.

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