Online retailers selling age-restricted products are exploiting a current lack of regulation and face being unprepared for the online safety bill due this Autumn.
The warning to firms comes as a study conducted by digital identity platform, Luciditi reveals that weapons, alcohol and vapes are just some of the items that children as young as seven years old can purchase online without having to securely verify their age.
Although the forthcoming government Online Safety Bill anticipated later this year will tighten regulations, there is currently no robust law enforcement in place to prevent companies selling to under-age people online.
Iain Corby, executive director for the Age Verification Providers Association, a politically neutral trade body representing all areas of the age-assurance ecosystem, commented: “For too long, regulators have neglected enforcement of age restrictions online. We are now seeing their attention shift towards the internet, and those firms which offer goods and services where a minimum age applies, should urgently implement a robust age verification solution to avoid very heavy fines.”
Ian Moody, co-founder and CEO for Luciditi, commented: “The law is very clear in that it is an offence to sell items such as weapons, alcohol and vapes to under-age children online and yet our study reveals that many online retailers still don’t have either the technological capabilities or the appetite to adhere to it.”
The research conducted coincides with the launch of Luciditi’s new online age check solution called Age Assurance. It can be deployed across an online retailer’s website or mobile app and simply requires shoppers to take a selfie prior to accessing the site. Within seconds it will confirm if they are over a certain age, does not reveal their identity and is the digital equivalent of being age estimated at the check-out in a supermarket or off-license by a member of staff.
Ian added: “Under-age online purchases are going largely unchallenged and so we feel we’ve developed a solution that enables online companies to protect young people, whilst simplifying the transaction process.
“We will naturally welcome the Online Safety Bill when it is unveiled but it will take at least 18 months for the new regulations to be enforced. We’d urge businesses across online retailing to take steps now to safeguard young people online rather than wait until the eleventh hour to take decisive action.”
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