Opinion: Online knife sales: is your business regulation-ready?

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Online sales of cleavers and other knives could land dealers in hot water if a thorough age verification process is not in place.

Alastair Graham, CEO of online age verification service, AgeChecked, believes that web-based dealers need to consider how they can ensure the safety of knife sales that are not face-to-face purchases.

Last year, knife crime rose to its highest-ever level in England and Wales, with over 43,000 recorded cases of knife-related offences. And, within those figures, the involvement of young people is also on the rise.

While the causes of knife crime are extremely complex, one clear part of a strategy to prevent young people from carrying offensive weapons is to better control how they access them in the first place.

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But what role do retailers play? In bricks-and-mortar stores, providing physical identification when purchasing age-restricted items is now generally accepted. However, online sales present a different set of challenges.

It’s something that was brought into the spotlight amongst catering suppliers in August, when a fine of £8,000 was issued to a dealer found to have sold a meat cleaver to a 13 year old child online, as part of a test purchase check.

So, what do suppliers need to be aware of to ensure they stay on the right side of the law?

The newly-passed Offensive Weapons Act specifically bans the sale of bladed products to residential addresses without age verification. Age verification must now happen twice; once at the point of sale and a second time when the goods are delivered. All catering suppliers that sell knives online must therefore consider how to coordinate the age verification procedures which happen digitally and remotely with those that happen face-to-face.

There are several challenges with developing this kind of approach. For example, most retailers outsource delivery and logistics once their products leave their premises. They are therefore also outsourcing final age verification at the point of delivery. If the logistics firm fails to adequately verify the age of the individual who accepts the delivery – and if it transpires that they are underage – there are now reputational and legal risks to consider.

Moreover, catering suppliers must put customer experience first and – particularly in today’s challenging business environment – ensure that their regulatory compliance does not come at the expense of a seamless online journey and in-person experience for legitimate customers.

Age verification software can help to seamlessly support this process. There are a number of tools on the market. AgeChecked, for example, works by allowing customers to verify their age securely via a unique username and password. Users can choose from a range of methods such as a passport or driving licence. Once the set-up and initial age check is complete, the user will be provided with an age-verified account, to ensure that purchasing age-restricted items on any participating site is easy.

Knife crime is a serious social problem, particularly when it comes to young people accessing and using weapons. A multifaceted strategy is needed to deal with the issue, and cracking down on underage sales of dangerous weapons is an important step in the right direction.

Catering suppliers – alongside other retailers – now have an even greater responsibility to keep pace with the regulatory evolution, to ensure that dangerous goods do not fall into the wrong hands, and to coordinate with their delivery and logistics providers on robust and reliable age verification.

Tags : agecheckedIndustry Expertknivesonline dealersonline salesopinion
Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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