Age verification processes screen identity documents (ID) of users and customers to check their age. The goal is to verify if the provided age information is true or not. Age verification can be performed by an automated process or manually.
Manual verification is typically used in brick and mortar stores where an employee checks the age of the customer based on their physical appearance or identity documents. This method is typically prone to human error. Online age verification, on the other hand, checks the ID against a database.
Automated verification is usually considered more accurate than manual verification. This is why automatic online age verification processes are used by many businesses, including merchants handling digital and online purchases.
In this article, you will learn:
- Physical vs. Digital Age Verification
- Online Age Verification in the USA
- New Online Age Restrictions in Europe
- 4 Online Age Verification Methods
Physical vs. Digital Age Verification
Age verification has become a common practice for products and services aimed at adults only. Tobacco and liquor stores generally can disallow minors to enter because it is illegal for minors to purchase and consume these products. According to the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, the minimum age to buy and sell tobacco products is 21. In a brick-and-mortar store, it is easier to verify age, but in online stores, it is much more difficult.
It is important to realize that minor protection rules apply to digital businesses as well. The situation in the digital space is worrisome, as many providers only require a username and password to provide access to adult services or purchase adult products. Consumption of these products is not only illegal but can have a negative impact on minors, so it is critical to protect minors from using these platforms. On the positive side, online age verification methods continue to evolve.
Advances in biometric technology and smart identification solutions have made it relatively easy to understand the exact age of today's customers, even without their physical presence.
Learn more in our guide to age verification systems
Online Age Verification in the USA
Online age verification is a legal requirement for many digital services. For others, it is a useful service. Taking into account that the majority of online activities occur without adult supervision, age verification becomes much more important.
The USA has several regulations that require age verification. For example:
- The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule (COPPA) restricts the collection of personally identifiable information by adolescents (under 13 years of age) without parental consent.
- The California Business and Professions Code (BPC) requires businesses selling tobacco and vaping products to verify that buyers are 21 years or older and that the billing address on the payment card matches the purchaser’s address.
- The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 2019 makes it illegal to sell any tobacco product to those under 21. Retailers are responsible for verifying age and may face significant fines.
In recent years, Musical.ly was fined $5.7 million and the FTC issued an injunction of $4 million against HyperBeard. Both organizations allowed children to create accounts without proper protection or consent. In most cases, it is not enough to explain the age requirement or use an age gate that can be easily bypassed without verification.
Organizations subject to age-related regulations must find a reliable and convenient way to verify age, protect children, and allow parents to grant access to their children for appropriate products and services.
New Online Age Restrictions in Europe
2021 is bringing new changes that regulate how gaming sites and online casinos manage their age verification and Know Your Customer (KYC) processes. Here are several important changes in several European countries:
- Germany—from July 2021, German regulations, primarily the Interstate Treaty on Gambling 2012/2020, require betting operators and online games to take active steps to prevent minors from accessing their services.
- UK—defined a new Age Appropriate Design Code, with a deadline of September 2nd 2021. This code stipulates that online services should provide children - now defined as anyone under the age of 18, not 13 as with previous regulations - with basic data protection. It applies to all industries.
- France—gambling, casinos, lotteries and similar services are now under the responsibility of one regulator - the l’Autorité Nationale des Jeux (ANJ). The goal of ANJ is to protect minors from participating in gambling, and to prevent addiction to gambling.
4 Online Age Verification Methods
Traditionally, an “age gate” page with checkboxes was used as the standard method for age verification. This involved providing a registration form that included a section asking individuals to check a box that declares they are over the age of 18.
In addition, some platforms may ask for the date of birth. Checkboxes are a type of self-verification, and are widely used in the USA. Unfortunately, it is fairly easy for minors to check these boxes incorrectly, lie about their age, and provide false dates of birth.
Credit/Debit Card Authentication
Debit or credit card information is a useful verification method. Card authentication processes inform the cardholder about all related activities. If a minor is using the card for registration, the parent is notified and can take necessary steps to protect the minor.
Invalid card authentication, however, can result in chargebacks, which can hurt the credit card owner’s credit rating. Parents using this type of authentication need to claim reversals for all transactions made on their credit and debit cards. Additionally, minors can easily use fake cards to complete the process.
Face-based biometric verification offers a strong deterrent against any would-be fraudsters using a fake ID to access an age-restricted product. This type of verification offers a high level of accuracy and improved security. It is also convenient for legitimate users. Facial verification can help protect businesses against risks associated with identity fraud and underage access.
Learn more in our detailed guide to biometric verification
Automated Online ID Verification
BlueCheck’s industry leading identity verification infrastructure enables merchants to grow their business faster. Serving a wide variety of industries, our solutions are custom tailored to the unique needs of our customers, including PACT Act and eCommerce compliant offerings.