Age-restricted goods could subject online retail to heavy fines

AgeChecked, a 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 knives, alcohol, lighter fuel, glue, aerosols, vaping products and even party poppers.  For example, the law states that it is ‘illegal to sell a knife to anyone under 18, unless it has a folding blade 3 inches long (7.62 cm) or less’.

Most of these new dot.com 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.

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.

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: “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.”

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