Businesses moving online in face of COVID-19 risk heavy fines if they sell age-restricted goods to children

AgeChecked, the leading global provider of secure and anonymised online age verification technology, is reminding businesses taking their operations online of the need to comply with laws on selling age-restricted goods.

The SafetyTech company has noticed a huge overnight increase in the number of retailers who have put their products on sale on the internet, including many which require age-checks at the point of sale such as alcohol, knives, lighter fuel, glue, aerosols, vaping products, and even party poppers.  Most of these new shops have not yet implemented even the most rudimentary age checks when official advice is to apply age verification that meets the latest published BSI standard for effective age verification, known as PAS1296.

For example, it is an offence under Section 146 of the Licensing Act 2003 to sell alcohol to children. Businesses need to ensure that they have taken all reasonable steps to establish the customer’s age and verify that they are over the legal age. Anyone selling online or by phone should be taking steps that go beyond an “I am 18+” tick box to verify age at the point of sale.

The Home Office advises that: “Anyone selling alcohol online or by phone should already be taking all reasonable steps to verify the customer’s age at the point of sale in order to avoid committing an offence of selling alcohol to a child.  PAS 1296 is a good point of reference for these steps.”

Alastair Graham, CEO at AgeChecked, said:

“It’s likely that trading standards will give new online retailers a short grace period given the unprecedented circumstances we find ourselves in.  However, as time moves on, we would anticipate the authorities applying the same level of rigour to their enforcement against illegal underage sales online as they do on the high street.”

Iain Corby, Executive Director of the Age Verification Providers Association (AVPA), commented:

“We often see reports of fines of up to £5,000 for selling alcohol to children when trading standards have done test purchases in shops.  As businesses go online, so too will enforcement activity, particularly if we see stories of young people taking advantage of retailers who are trying to keep their businesses going by switching sales online, but have not yet thought to add age checks to their webpage.  Sadly, local authorities are often spurred into action by tragedies involving children, and no shopkeeper wants to be the focus of an investigation in those circumstances.”

About AgeChecked

AgeChecked is a UK-based global provider of secure and anonymised online age-verification services, founded as part of the UK’s emerging SafetyTech sector, which has been leading the world in this field.

AgeChecked’s service provides online businesses with a fully integrated, compliant, age checking solution, offering a wide range of accurate verification methods to ensure the highest age checking pass rates online. Verification checks occur swiftly, with the majority of checks completed in under 10 seconds.  Once verified, website users are able to access different age-restricted sites, with little or no further interruption to their activities.

AgeChecked is global solution – online customers receive an age checking service that is optimised by geographic location and designed to meet local regulatory requirements based on the goods and services on offer, so organisations can meet their responsibilities wherever they do business around the globe.

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