Age issue when it comes to websites
Published:  27 March, 2009

Q I am in the process of updating

my shop's website. I notice that almost every drinks-related site

these days asks visitors to confirm

their date of birth. Is this a legal

requirement?

A It's not, though for most producers it has become almost standard practice to require visitors to enter their date of birth. Quite why under-18s should be refused access to information about alcoholic brands, or site owners think children aren't resourceful enough to

lie about their age, is anyone's guess.

The European Forum for Responsible Drinking has published new guidelines for web-based marketing, which come into force in July. These include a requirement for age to be confirmed before visiting any site operated by a signatory company (such as Bacardi-Martini, Beam Global, Brown-Forman, Diageo, Moët-Hennessy and Pernod Ricard). It also demands responsible drinking messages.

It's entirely up to you whether or not you go through the laborious, and some would say pointless, exercise of asking potential clients their age before

they visit your site.

But do not be surprised to find that many of them were born on Jan 1, 1900.

Q I passed a test purchasing test carried out by local Trading Standards officers with flying colours. It's not the first time this has happened. Am I allowed to use this information for publicity purposes?

A In some areas, councils and police forces are only too happy to publish lists of shops which have refused to sell alcohol to test purchasing volunteers. But sadly, in most areas, it's much more common for the bad guys to get the publicity, while the good guys get no public credit for their actions.

This is perhaps not surprising, because all the retailers have really done is act lawfully. You might as well award prizes, some might say, to people who don't commit burglaries or exceed the speed limit. But with so much negative press surrounding the drinks trade, it would be nice if more authorities gave law-abiding off-traders a slap on the back.

It's doubtful that your local paper is

going to be interested

- and if it did run a news article, there's always the danger that a mischief-making journalist tries to put your claims to the test with some sort of test purchase of their own, or writes a story about under-age drinking in your neighbourhood which makes some kind of ironic link with your

good news.

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