With expected changes in UK regulations coming in 2019, along with the launch of the Digital Economy Act, age verification (AV) solutions are fast becoming an important necessity for businesses across many industries.
New laws by the British Gambling Commission have acted as a significant change in approach towards online verification – with the aim to make gambling “safer and fairer”.
We sat down with W2 Global Data’s Chief Product Officer Gary Pine to discuss the importance of AV and how they aim to provide alternative methods to the gambling sector.
Why is age verification an important dynamic for all digital merchants?
Gary Pine: As more and more of our daily transactions are taking place online, the ‘person not present’ nature of a desktop or mobile purchases makes it very difficult for merchants to ascertain if would-be customers are old enough to buy certain products and / or access services that are age-restricted.
It’s widely reported that access to alcohol, adult content and gambling can damage the health of our young people and lead to problems later in life such as mental and sexual health issues. As such, the rise of the internet and easy access to age restricted content by children has become a growing cause for concern for parents, teachers and health professionals.
While online businesses have the same responsibilities as ‘bricks & mortar’ businesses, new rules, new regulations and the threat of large sanctions are another key driver for such online merchants putting more robust measures in place to prevent children from accessing products and services that are age-restricted.
What are the growing regulatory and stakeholders’ concerns related to Age Verification?
Gary Pine : The Gambling Commission has outlined a series of new rules in early 2019 for the online operators; aiming to make gambling safer and fairer. These new rules, which followed an open consultation, will ensure operators verify customers’ age and identity details faster which should ultimately benefit consumers.
Instead of allowing 72 hours for a new customers age to be verified and allowing gambling to commence in the meantime, the rules now state that a consumer must be age verified before funds can be deposited into an account or a ‘free-to-play’ game is played.
Also in recent months, age verification in the adult industry has been a hot topic in parliament, with the introduction of the Digital Economy Act outlining the need for age verification checks for consumers wishing to access adult content. The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is due to enforce this in 2019.
Where have legacy or standardised verifications services failed stakeholders?
Gary Pine: Although online retail businesses including gambling service providers have historically included basic age checks such as ‘tick boxes’ for users to confirm that they are old enough to buy products and access services, the responsibility is on the customer or consumer to be honest.
It’s unreliable, and can lead to children accessing damaging products and content.
Studies on the long term effect of gambling also highlight that change needs to take place to address issues of growing global concern. It’s widely reported that online gambling can increase the chances of becoming a problem gambler.
In the UK a report commissioned by GambleAware (2016) estimates that problem gamblers cost the government between £260 million and £1.2 billion per year.
Why, as a company, did you decide to attach a Pay-As-You-Go Age Verification?
Gary Pine: With W2s PAYG model – we want to give our customers flexible, transparent pricing options to suit their needs as well as the more customary monthly billing option. As new regulations come into force, we understand that our customers won’t always be able to predict how many age verification checks they may need to make.
By offering Pay-As-You-Go options, our customers won’t need to sign up to inflexible ‘minimum’ contracts.
How do you see your service growing within the betting sector?
Gary Pine: W2 offers simplified, innovative, cost effective and fast methods of age verification including DOB verification using credit file information. Other methods include the simple input of a phone number (to check whether the ‘adult content’ flag is lifted), email address (to verify the age of the email) or credit card (to check card validity on the understanding that users must be over 18 to hold a card).
These methods are designed to suit younger consumers who may not be easily identified by more traditional credit file checks. We’re also continually working on new age verification methods to make the choice of methods even wider.
Finally, we understand that the gambling sector will require access to full audits trail as proof of AV due diligence; our online dashboard provides full details of each verification and includes downloadable reports for reporting and MI purposes.