Based on your view, it could possibly be a public overall health trouble, a moral panic or a thing in involving. Nevertheless, no matter what you consider of the illnesses and deaths associated to vaping — and the Trump Administration’s apparent willingness to ban some vaping-associated solutions — the news does serve to highlight the practice of age-restricted retail and the digital technologies that are top to greater age verification, specifically on-line.
The ongoing outbreak of extreme lung illness amongst some vape customers anchored a current PYMNTS discussion with Scott Hardy, vice president of BankCard USA, which owns age verification service AgeChecker.net. “Things move so fast, we need to react quickly and be nimble,” he said when talking about the current age-verification landscape, and how this recent development could influence further developments in that area.
Things are indeed moving fast, and have been for a while now when it comes not only to vaping but other age-restricted products. For instance, Juul, one of the most popular e-cigarette brands in the U.S., recently said it would be adopting a new age verification system to curb underage smoking. The company is going to offer upward of $100 million in incentives for retail stores to adopt the new system, which will block the purchase of a Juul until an appropriate age is confirmed. Customers will need to present a valid form of identification, which could include a driver’s license or another type of verified government-sanctioned identification.
As that happens, the rise of other products is causing some confusion among retailers, regulators, consumers and parents. The prime example of that is CBD, currently not an age-restricted product, at least in most places. CBD is short for cannabidiol, a chemical derived from the cannabis plant, and versions of that product are popping up in countless stores, both physical and online. Depending on your point of view, CBD can act as a sort of cure-all for various ailments — or it represents the latest wave of snake-oil commerce.
Federal and state regulators are still figuring out what’s what in the world of CBD retail, and that leaves merchants unclear about age restrictions on the product, as well as other real and potential risks that come from selling such an item. The situation also provides a chance for age verification providers to shine, and for others to see just how vital online verification services are to the future of online and in-store retail activities.
Too Much Confusion
For his part, Hardy — echoing comments increasingly heard in this space — confusion about age verification is much less attractive than some clear, general standard, at least when it comes to legitimate payments and commerce actors in this particular area of retail. “The costs will be passed on to the consumer,” he said when talking about deploying more age-verification technology for the CBD area. “But at least businesses will have a level playing field.”
While the current news about vaping is more about health risks than age verification, the controversy should still serve as a warning for retailers that want to take part in the industry long-term and want to be the right side of regulation and public opinion. “Business owners aren’t always trying to think of best practices first,” Hardy told PYMNTS. “We see that in areas like CBD now. They aren’t really thinking of age verification for that.”
However, things have a way of quickly moving when it comes to online retail, and also with new areas of retail — a category that not includes vaping and CBD, but the legal recreational marijuana industry, which is sparking the rise of delivery services. As well, thanks to the loosening of certain laws, consumers are finding it easier to buy alcohol from online services, another area where age verification is critical and will serve to separate legitimate and long-term actors from businesses.
Even so, progress could be somewhat slow. “Not everyone in the industry is self-policing,” Hardy said. “It’s a hard sell for anybody not forced to do it.” However, no matter the challenge, the ongoing rise of age-restricted eCommerce, among other trends, continues to put a premium on digital and mobile age-verification tools.