Callcredit is reaching out to online retailers to include stricter ID checks
As Alcohol Awareness Week begins (19 - 25 November) Callcredit Information Group is highlighting to online retailers to ensure strict ID checks are in place when alcohol is being purchased online.
Experts in the fields of credit referencing, marketing services, consumer information, interactive solutions and consultative analytics, Callcredit is in strong support of the initiative, organised by Alcohol Concern to raise awareness of the social and health issues surrounding alcohol, and is keen to highlight the importance of strict online identification as this is a potential area of vulnerability for the retail sector.
The reality is that few young people now wait until they are 18 to drink, more than eight out of 10 have already tried alcohol by the time they are 15, and where underage drinking has actually declined in recent years, those who are drinking are consuming more alcohol, more often. A recent report published by Plymouth University and underage sales auditors Serve Legal highlighted online sales as being a 'significant' problem in the battle against underage drinking, with illegal purchases being difficult to police.
Selling alcohol to minors is an offence punishable by a fine of up to £20,000 - as well as causing significant reputational damage to the seller - and retailers have responded by introducing strict ID checks at the checkout, with 'Think 21' or 'Think 25' policies becoming increasingly common, however these strict verifications are still to be seen online.
Ben Allott, Business Development Manager, Callcredit Information Group said: "The challenge for online traders is arguably greater when their customers can hide behind the relative anonymity that the internet offers. Online sales are an area of growth for retailers with online alcohol sales in general shown to be increasing 25% year-on-year. Although this isn't the figure for the amount of alcohol purchased by underage drinkers online and many of these purchasers are likely to be adults, the possibility that underage drinkers are using online services as a means of obtaining alcohol cannot be ruled out.
"We understand the difficulty online retailers face when it comes to online alcohol sales and ID verification and most major retailers do have some safeguards in place to meet their legal responsibilities when selling and promoting alcohol online, more does need to be done at the point of sale by all retailers to ensure that underage alcohol purchases are identified at the earliest possible stage rather than the responsibility often resting with the delivery driver."
To help online retailers with identity and age verification Callcredit has produced a lightweight and transparent Age Verification solution enabling online retailers to verify a customer's personal details via a wide range of independent data sources, including the Electoral Roll, driving licence records, passport information and financial data. Once a customer has registered on the retailer's site, their details are automatically checked against these databases and an instant decision is returned. In addition, the system can check the bank account and card details of the customer once they are provided during the transaction, giving additional confidence in confirming age and preventing fraud.
Ben added: "With alcohol abuse a growing concern in young people online retailers need to improve their age verification procedures as it isn't enough just relying on the driver checking identification at the point of delivery and making a decision to withhold the order if they suspect the purchaser is under the age of 18."
For further information on Alcohol awareness week visit http://www.alcoholconcern.org.uk/campaign/alcohol-awareness-week