Companies will be aware that selling certain products such as alcohol, tobacco and fireworks to anyone under 18 years of age is illegal. However, companies may not be so aware of the positive steps they are required to take under UK Government guidelines to check the age of customers buying these products.
Proof of age can easily be done in a shop by judging whether the customer looks old enough, or asking for photo id if the shopkeeper is unsure. It is much more tricky for online retailers to be certain a customer is over 18, yet the same responsibility applies to a website owner as it does to a shop owner.
In this article we explain what an online retailer's responsibilities are and how to comply with Trading Standards guidelines.
It is the responsibility of online retailers not to sell age-restricted products to customers under the minimum legal age.
That is no surprise, but importantly it is also the duty of online retailers to use effective systems capable of verifying the age of potential purchasers to ensure they are old enough to buy a product.
The list of age-restricted products in the UK includes:
What we mean by 'due diligence' here is all reasonable checks made by an online retailer to verify the customers age before selling them age-restricted products.
According to the Business Companion website (who describe themselves as "Trading Standards law explained") the following checks are unlikely to satisfy 'due diligence' , and thus not be a reasonable defence if an online retailer appeared in court for selling to an under age person.
Not sufficient to satisfy 'due diligence':
Age verification checks are much more likely to display an online retailer's compliance with 'due diligence' and their responsibilities when selling age-restricted products. Examples of these age verification methods are:
Considering the options above, the first option of verifying a purchaser's age against third party data, seems to be the best for the vast majority of websites that sell age-restricted products. The reasons are:
For more information on T2A's Age Verification method for online retailers, please click here.
This is also available as an Age Verification plugin for websites built using Wordpress and WooCommerce.
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