NSW crackdown on age verification for alcohol delivery

Liquor & Gaming NSW announced this month that new restrictions are set to come into force focused on age verification for same day alcohol delivery.

It extended the deadline for retails to have accredited age verification systems in place from June this year to September as retailers and delivery companies were seemingly slow to change their processes.

For some breweries and beer retailers, deliveries became a lifeline during COVID and while many have slowed the service as normal operating resumes, others may still be impacted.

As part of the reforms, Liquor & Gaming NSW announced that there are now new minimum requirements which retailers must adhere to under the Liquor Act 2007.

These include either verifying age through the Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF), using an alternative artificial intelligence system, or requiring the purchaser to make a statement.

These measures are intended to help protect minors from purchasing alcohol online, the licensing body said.

Delivery providers have until 1 September 2022 to fully comply.

The announcement in NSW comes after a year in which lobbyists at the Cancer Council used ABAC to highlight issues with age gating on a number of major alcohol manufacturers’ websites, and a dispute between Retail Drinks and FARE over the claim that alcohol home deliveries could harm children.

NSW has already been quick to enforce measures with regards to home delivery, such as ‘secret shoppers’ for home deliveries and adopting measures from Retail Drinks’ Code of Conduct into reforms last year.

In a statement earlier this month, Retail Drinks’ CEO Michael Waters welcomed the changes, as well as the NSW Government’s approach to industry consultation.

“Retail Drinks is proud to have been at the forefront of responsibility in the online liquor delivery space…We have also played a significant role in helping the industry transition towards the NSW Government’s new age verification requirements, including launching a successful industry-first trial of age verification technology last year,” Waters said.

“We have welcomed the NSW Government’s collaborative approach with industry to ensure that the minimum standards as prescribed by the regulations are fit for purpose and allow a degree of flexibility for online liquor retailers to comply with the age verification requirements.”

While this is only being introduced in one state for the time being and only for same-day delivery, industry commentators have suggested that this could be the start of further crackdowns on alcohol delivery.

Darren Pollard, regional director for Yoti, an ID and age verification provider, explained the potential impact of the legislation.

“The sector that is impacted by the laws is very narrow. It’s same day delivery providers, providing alcohol over the same 24-hour period either via a website or over the phone, and for NSW only,” he said.

“But the entire sector so far has relied on age gating, where a simple splash page is presented on a website and customers are asked if they are over 18 – you could be 15 and say yes.

“Those age-gate technologies don’t actually do anything, there’s nothing behind them, it’s just a button,” he suggested.

Only age verification software which has received or is undertaking accreditation under the federal government’s Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF) can be used to digitally verify the age of a customer online.

ConnectID, which was accredited last year as the first private sector identity exchange, with utilises both Yoti and Australia Post reusable digital ID apps which can be used by customers to verify their age.

“If you look at the whole of Australia, right now there’s no age verification requirements that are enforced online. If a 15 year old can order alcohol with a prepaid or dad’s credit card and can use a brother’s drivers licence at the doorstep, there are obviously ways around it.

“In the long term, most retailers are going to fall under some sort of legislation that will require an age verification solution,” Pollard suggested.

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