The GBG guide to Age Verification (AV)
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The GBG guide to Age Verification (AV)

Learn how GBG products can help you meet your age verification obligations and give you a competitive edge as a leader in compliance.




What is age verification (AV) regulation?

Age verification regulation applies to your business if you sell something or provide a service that requires the purchaser to be of a certain age.

The key objective for AV checks is to restrict access to products or services that are classified (either by the company providing them, or by local legislation) as being inappropriate for users who are below a specified age.

For international retailers AV compliance is complicated by the fact that the types of product with statutory age restrictions, and the ages of restriction, vary from country to country.

Typically, the list of age-restricted goods will include items such as aerosol spray paint; alcohol; butane lighter refills; cinema films; crossbows; firearms including air weapons and imitation weapons; fireworks; gambling; knives; petrol; publications (considered harmful to children) and solvents.

An effective AV system will also help your company to comply with privacy laws in countries that regulate the collection of personal information from minors.

What are the consequences of unrestricted access?

When young people gain access to age-restricted products or services, such as alcohol or gambling, it can lead to problems for individuals, families and wider society.

Underage drinking increases the risk of physical and sexual assault and is associated with illicit drug use. It can lead to physical injury or death owing to increased risk-taking or alcohol poisoning.  In the USA, for example, excessive drinking among the underaged has been identified as a factor in more than 4,000 deaths and more than 110,000 emergency hospital admissions each year.

Underage gambling studies have shown that children who begin gambling by age 12 are four times more likely to become problem gamblers. Gambling addiction has strong links to family breakup, self-harm and suicide.

AV regulation is intended to protect young people from harm, keep communities safe and support your business in doing so.

Who has to carry out AV checks?

AV checks must be carried out by retailers: they cannot rely on third parties, such as card payment companies, to age verify transactions. Card companies have no legal responsibility to check what a young person may try to buy, nor do they take a moral position on how cards are used. The onus is on the retailer to ensure that the customer is of legal age.

This means retailers must conduct due diligence checks on each customer to ensure that the identity and age details provided during onboarding and in subsequent transactions are valid.

If your business provides age-restricted products or services, the authorities responsible for AV regulation will expect you to

  • promote a culture where young people are challenged to provide proof of age whenever they attempt to access age-restricted products or services
  • establish appropriate controls to prevent breaches of age restrictions, and to keep these under review
  • be clear and consistent on the forms of proof of age you will accept
  • provide effective training to those responsible for implementing the controls
  • support sales staff and others responsible for implementing the controls, so that they feel able to check proof of age and to refuse access to products or services
  • share information with regulators and enforcement authorities on problems with age-restricted products and services

How do I carry out AV checks?

There are clear differences between distance selling (over the internet or by telephone order or mail order) and face-to-face transactions. If customers visit your premises you can certify their age and identity using official documents such as passports or driving licences.

However, many businesses provide age-restricted products or services remotely. In these cases, the options include:

  • For physical products: requiring the signature of an adult upon delivery
  • Enrolling and age-verifying customers in-store before they can access products or services online;
  • Allowing online sales of age-restricted goods only to a customer whose age can be confirmed by age-verification service providers.

Regulators will provide guidance on the suitability of online AV checking options. However, a simple ‘tick-box’ that requires online customers to confirm age-based eligibility, or a requirement to enter a date of birth on an electronic form, will not be sufficient.

Customer due diligence (CDD) involves identifying your customers and checking they are who they say they are. In practice this means obtaining a customer’s name, a photograph on an official document that confirms their identity and a residential address and date of birth. You must be able to show that you have verified the identity of all customers who have attempt to purchase age-restricted products or services.  

You must develop and implement AV policies that are appropriate to the sector and the nature of your company’s interactions with customers. You must ensure that your employees and staff

  • recognise their role in restricting the access that young people have to age-restricted products and services
  • support a culture where young people are challenged to provide proof of age whenever they attempt to access age-restricted products or services
  • are aware of the law and the age restrictions for the products and services for which they are responsible
  • do not commit offences in relation to these restrictions
  • follow company policies on the sale of age-restricted products and services

Your business will be expected to monitor performance against your stated AV policies and procedures and to maintain records that demonstrate procedures have been followed. These records will relate to customer onboarding and the subsequent relationship with each customer.

When do I need to carry out AV checks?

You must apply CDD checks, including age verification, when:

  • you establish a business relationship with a customer
  • you suspect a customer may be underage
  • you have doubts about a customer’s identification information that you obtained previously

Enhanced CDD checks may be necessary in some situations: for example, when the customer is not physically present during the checks, or where there are special conditions attached to the sale, such as a licensing requirement.

What happens if AV isn’t done properly?

Age restrictions for goods or services are defined in law. If you sell age-restricted goods or services you are legally responsible for the age verification of your customers. Retailers who sell to underage customers will face legal proceedings initiated by the regulatory authorities which may lead to fines or imprisonment.

Authorities may also order the blocking of non-compliant websites.

The enforcing authority is likely to take stringent action where there is evidence of:

  • criminal activity for which there is a reasonable prospect of conviction
  • a history of persistent non-compliance
  • failure to demonstrate customer due diligence or taking reasonable steps to establish the age of the customer

GBG solutions that can help you with AV compliance

Identity verification: ID3global lets you verify your customer’s identity, age and bank account details quickly and without introducing friction to your onboarding experience.

Document verification: IDscan captures and authenticates identity documents in seconds using advanced algorithms and colour-wave technology.

Location verification: Loqate lets you capture any address in the world and build faster, more accurate digital journeys, or verify and enhance address data for the highest levels of quality and accuracy.

Fast and secure age certainty

Ensure only good customers are onboarded and compliance regulators are satisfied.