Dealing With Age Issues In The Age Of Ecommerce

Let’s be honest; you can buy just about anything online now. No matter how outlandish or rare, there’s sure to be a website which sells it. It’s a fantastic age for consumers and retailers alike, as everyone can find a niche which works for them. Never before has the selling world been so open to possibility.


But, ecommerce is still finding its legs, and there are issues which have yet to be ironed out. When it comes to retail laws, for example, online trading challenges regulations which have been in place for years. Trading hours on a Sunday aren’t exactly possible to enforce on the worldwide web. Equally, sales on age-related products are harder to control when there’s a computer screen between you and your customer.

While breaches of Sunday trading regulation are unavoidable, selling to minors could lead to significant issues. As well as having legal action taken against you, you risk losing your license, and thus your enterprise.



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So, it’s down to you to find a way through the issue. To start, it may be worth turning to other retailers for inspiration. Seeing how other companies are finding their way around these problems should help you develop a plan. Think, too, about the following pointers.

How will you check age?

Age checks are, obviously, the most important thing about selling restricted products online. This applies whether you’re selling DVDs or alcohol. As the retailer, it’s your responsibility to ensure your customer is of age. In a physical store, staff would ID, and compare pictures on documents to the person in front of them. You can’t do that. You also can’t get away with asking the consumer to enter their age or confirm they’re old enough. Even with disclaimers attached, this won’t wash with the law.


Instead, you’ll need to develop alternative ways of ensuring age. One such option would be to get delivery drivers to verify identification. Amazon, who announced an expansion of alcohol sales this August, use this method. And, if it’s good enough for Amazon, it should be good enough for you. The only downside is that you would need to time deliveries just right. Not to mention that this is a relatively time costly method, and also puts a lot of trust in your drivers.


To protect yourself even further, it may instead be worth using something like this identity verification service, which scans licenses, and confirms identity using facial recognition. The cost of implementing a procedure like this will be nothing compared to the expense of a lawsuit. In many ways, a service like this is more reliable than even a face to face identification. A computer is much less likely to get it wrong!



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Make sure to sell sensibly

It’s also important to note that you need to sell sensibly. In a shop, sales assistants are within their rights to refuse alcohol to intoxicated customers. They can also refuse knife sales and so on at their discretion. There’s no getting around the fact that you won’t have as much control over your customers. But, if you sell these products irresponsibly, the law will soon come looking.

The good news is, there are a few ways to ensure you’re selling sensibly. For one, you can put limits on large purchases of alcohol in one order. You could also put in place an automatic ban on individuals who complete a certain amount of purchases in a short time. These may seem counter-intuitive for business, but these steps are well worth taking.

When selling knives and other such items, it’s worth tracking what else customers look at on your website. You could also ask some questions about use. It’ll soon become evident whether someone is planning a gourmet meal or not.

Include necessary warnings

It’s also your responsibility to include necessary warnings. This means putting ‘Drink sensibly’ warnings when selling alcohol. It’s also your responsibility to remind consumers of the dangers of their knives and so on. If selling DVDs with age restrictions, it may be worth listing the main offenders, such as bad language, or sexual scenes. The more information you provide, the better position you’re in to protect yourself.



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And finally

No doubt, new laws will soon accommodate the new ecommerce trend. But, for now, these tips should see you through. You have a responsibility to your customers above all, and your business should never come before that. As you long as you operate with that in mind, you shouldn’t stumble across any issues.

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