Next-Generation Age Verification System to Begin Testing This Summer


ALEXANDRIA, Va. — NACS will begin testing the prototype of a "revolutionary" age verification program later this summer.

The turnkey, next-generation solution is designed to verify a user's age while protecting personal information and delivering a frictionless experience.

"We are funding this groundbreaking program because consumers overwhelmingly want it — and they say that they are most likely to support a retail-developed program that protects their privacy," said NACS President and CEO Henry Armour. "The concept of this project has been in development for months, but the current retail landscape makes this program even more imperative as retailers test new forms of consumer convenience and seek cost efficiencies that help to maintain operations in a rough economic climate."

According to a national consumer poll conducted in March, nine out of ten Americans support a nationwide standard for age verification; 78 percent want a universal, compulsory program and approach similar to the "We Card" program for all age-restricted purchases; and 76 percent would support the development of an age verification program developed by major retailers who sell age-restricted products.

Advances in technology, the rapid embrace of online delivery and alternative pickup of products, and consumer adoption of mobile communications have set the stage for the development of this program, NACS said.

The association is working with Conexxus to complete detailed specifications that standardize the age verification process at the point of sale. They include ID validation, age calculation, procedures for non-supported IDs and the ability to anonymize verification to protect personal information and consumer privacy.

This verification solution would be offered free to retailers, with the relevant intellectual property placed in the public domain to remove significant barriers to adoption.

The retail climate during the COVID-19 pandemic has raised awareness of how new types of sales of age-restricted products are being embraced or allowed, whether restaurants offering delivery of alcohol or retailers introducing curbside pickup of age-restricted products, according to NACS. Many temporary services offered due to retail changes during the crisis will likely become permanent due to consumer demand, heightening the need for a more comprehensive age verification solution.

Of the 165 million transactions conducted by 152,000-plus U.S. convenience stores each day, 46 million of them involve an age-restricted product.

"Not only does this program address an important societal issue, it also helps pool costs and resources that all retailers and their supplier partners are currently allocating to independent projects," said Sheetz Inc. CEO Joe Sheetz.