In the news this past week was a story about a research study where underage people were recruited to buy wine, alcohol, beer and other adult beverages online from 100 popular websites in the industry. Here are the results:
Of the orders, 45 were received, 28 were rejected after the delivery company tried to verify the buyer’s age and 11 were sent back when no one was home to receive them. Another 16 went awry for reasons like technical glitches unrelated to age. While the researchers allowed buyers to fabricate a birth date on an online purchase form, they had to show their real identification if they were asked for it. In many cases, the official document didn’t prevent the purchase, the study found.
Let’s break this down as I see it. 84 orders were approved to ship by the website. Ouch. Do these websites even have an age verification system in place? Are they using the honesty policy? Are they only doing credit card verification?
While the full details of the study are gated at the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. I did find some more information on the results in the abstract:
Of the 100 orders placed by the underage buyers, 45% were successfully received; 28% were rejected as the result of age verification. Most vendors (59%) used weak, if any, age verification at the point of order, and, of 45 successful orders, 23 (51%) used none. Age verification at delivery was inconsistently conducted and, when attempted, failed about half of the time.
There are different levels of age verification available for retailers. Using a true identity and age verification solution does work. Based on the results above the problem would appear to be that only 28% of the retailers are using one.
The battle of who shoulders the burden of proof between the retailers and delivery companies is a tired excuse for this industry. We are all responsible for protecting our kids. Meaning e-commerce sites need to implement reliable, strong, age verification solutions; and delivery truck driver’s need to pay more attention to the recipients of age related packages.