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14th April 2023

How to verify age online | why is age verification needed?

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In the digital age, it’s become easy to buy pretty much anything you want online.  But as a retailer or provider of services, finding out who is buying has become even harder.

Gone are the days of asking for them to handover their ID if they are buying alcohol or other age-restricted items. If you’re an online business, you need an online age verification tool.

Which laws outline age verification?

In the UK, age verification is covered by a number of laws that restrict the sale of certain items to people under the agreed age. 

The main one relating to the sale of alcohol is the Licensing Act 2003

  • Restricts the sale of alcohol to licenced premises. It states a person commits an offence if he sells alcohol to an individual aged under 18. If you’re an online retailer, section 190 of the act states that the premises is where the alcohol is stored, e.g. a warehouse.  
  • Need to declare on your website that these sales are age-restricted. Ideally, you would also need to ask for age verification at point of sale and delivery. 

Other age verification legislation to consider includes:

  • Offensive Weapons Acts 2019: relating to the sales of corrosive products and bladed items. Again, these are restricted to those 18 and over.
  • The Cigarette Lighter Refill (Safety) Regulations 1999: Restricts the selling of lighter refills to over 18 years old. 
  • Video Recordings Act 1984: Add age ratings and restrictions to the sale, hire or supply of any videos. 
  • Children and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco) Act 1991: Restricts the sale of tobacco products to over 16 year olds only. 
  • The National Lottery Regulations 1994: Restricts sales of lottery tickets to those over 16 years old only. 
  • The Fireworks Regulations 2004: Prohibits sale of fireworks to people under 18. 

How does age verification work online?

There are two main ways to verify someone’s age online – online verification checks and biometric checks. 

Data verification checks

These involve crosschecking the person’s details against public records. 

At, we use an extensive search tool filled with up-to-date and accurate people data. Our Age Verify tool uses information from the Electoral Roll and directory enquiries to provide information on whether a person (s) is over 18. 

You simply need to input the name and address of the person you want to find, and we’ll give you one of three results:

  • Yes, the person is over 18
  • Under 18, a record was found but they are under 18
  • No, a record was not found

We also have an API that can be integrated into ecommerce sites to provide instant age verification. The T2A Age Verification method can be added to websites, apps and CRM systems. When someone goes to check out and provides their name, postcode and first line of address, we can check if they are over 18. 

Biometric age checks

To add a second layer of verification, many sites require the inclusion of some form of photo ID. This can be uploaded and manually checked. 

With the T2A Age Verification API, there is the optional service of OCR Verification and biometric checking. This allows people to upload valid photographic ID (such as a driving licence or passport). 

Other age verification systems

Many companies will allow home age verification in the form of parental controls. This involves the account holder setting up a password to restrict access to underage users. Others might simply ask users to input their age. Neither of these system are as successful as the online and biometric verification checks. 

Why do companies need age verification?

Online retailers who stock age-restricted goods need to verify age to prevent underage people buying such goods and to stop them from receiving fines, or having their licenses revoked. 

But it’s not just online retailers who need age verification. Anyone who provides any form of age-restricted materials need to include age verification – from videos to lottery tickets. 

Which sites require age verification?

Surprisingly, a lot of sites you use everyday will include age verification. Any site that sells alcohol – even as a gift – needs to verify age. This could include department stores likes John Lewis that sells alcohol and knives, or shopping sites like eBay. 

YouTube will also ask you to verify your age if you’re looking to watch age-restricted content. 

Google, which owns YouTube, was recently fined for violating safety guidelines for children. This led it to introduce age verification checks. It has introduced a minimum age to own a Google account – 13 years old. 

Google also asks for age verification when making Google Payments (13 in the UK, and for using its AdSense and Google Ads services (18 ).

Some social media sites require age verification or, at least, say account owners must be over a certain age. TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Kik, YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook all require users to be over 13 years old. However, their age verification system simply requires users to input their year of birth, with no in-depth age verification in place. 

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