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Over half of UK age-restricted sites believe minors have at some stage accessed or bought their products or services

Jumio, the leading provider of AI-powered end-to-end identity verification and authentication solutions, today launched a new report revealing that 54% of UK age-restricted sites have been unable to prevent minors from accessing their products or services despite over two-thirds (67%) believing it is their responsibility to prevent this from happening.

The report, Protecting Minors Online: Methods and mindsets of businesses operating in age-restricted industries, reveals the perspectives of UK businesses in this space and what steps are being taken to prevent underage access.

The research, conducted by Vitreous World, questioned 200 UK-based tech decision-makers within organisations that sell or offer age-restricted products or services. It comes amidst mounting pressure for online companies to better protect minors from online harm, with Ofcom set to take a leading role in enforcing new rules. The report finds that:
• An overwhelming majority (95%) say that it is important for them to ensure minors do not access their services or products, but many (56%) are failing at the first hurdle by relying on inherently weak, more anonymous forms of age verification
• Over a quarter (26%) depend on a self-assessment form, 20% use document verification and a further 10% employ the use of a credit check report to verify a user’s age
• Those selling products, such as alcohol or fireworks, are less likely (50%) to depend on weak age-verification methods than those offering a service, like pornography (71%), where the perceived harm is somewhat less tangible

As age-restricted sites begin to address their accountability, Jumio’s report explores the challenges these organisations face when it comes to implementing robust age-verification technologies. For almost half (45%) of the respondents, it is important that a technology can genuinely verify a user’s age, while having a negative impact on conversion rates (36%) and creating a disjointed customer experience (33%) are perceived as the key reasons why organisations might choose not to implement the most effective stand-alone age-verification method.

“It is completely appropriate to hold any organisation that profits from selling age-restricted products and services accountable for the potential harms caused by their platform,” said Robert Prigge, Jumio CEO.

“That said, Ofcom needs to take a risk-based approach to age verification, depending on the industry and the likely harm of onboarding a bad actor. That is, the greater the likelihood of social harm, the greater the need for more robust forms of non-anonymous methods of age verification. With many minors at home in the UK right now due to pandemic lockdown measures and spending more time online, it is vital that organisations are looking to the most appropriate methods of age verification to truly prevent harm.”