NACS Unveils Age-Verification Program

The next-generation program will revolutionize the way retailers check consumers’ ages.

May 18, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—NACS announced Friday at the 2020 Verifone Client Forum that it is leading efforts to revolutionize age verification at retail, with a prototype of a revolutionary age-verification program ready for tests later this summer. The turnkey, next-generation solution will verify a user’s age while also 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.

In a national consumer poll conducted in March 2020, NACS found that 90% of Americans support a nationwide standard for age verification, and 78% of Americans want a universal, compulsory We Card-like program and approach for all age-restricted purchases. And more than three in four Americans (76%) 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 is working closely with Conexxus, a non-profit technology organization dedicated to the development and implementation of standards and technologies innovation to improve retailer operations and reduce the cost of IT ownership.

NACS and Conexxus are completing detailed specifications that standardize the age-verification process at the point of sale that will 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 for free to retailers, and its relevant intellectual property placed in the public domain—removing significant barriers to adoption.

This is not the first time that NACS has taken a leadership role in responsible retailing and age-verification practices. The association is a founding member of the We Card program, which was established in the 1990s to provide training and educational programs for age-verification tools and processes while preventing age-restricted product sales to minors. The We Card program has provided retailers with more than 1.1 million in-store educational kits and has trained nearly 500,000 retail employees nationwide. And in 2015, NACS announced that convenience stores selling e-cigarettes were encouraged to adopt, as a best practice, a policy of treating these products as age restricted and subjecting them to the same age-verification procedures as those applicable to tobacco products.

In addition, the current 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. Many of the temporary services borne out of COVID-19 retail changes will also likely become permanent because of consumer demand, heightening the need for a more comprehensive age-verification solution.

“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.

“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,” said Armour.

The 152,000-plus convenience stores in the United States conduct 165 million transactions a day and 46 million of them involve an age-restricted product.

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