[Updated] 7 Tips for Better Age Verification for Wine Shipments

Sovos | April 29, 2015

As direct-to-consumer wine shipments grow in popularity, we regularly get questions about best practices for consumer age verification. We’ve covered this topic in our blog previously but with the ever-changing laws, it’s time for an update.

Age verification protocols are an absolute necessity for the direct selling industry. These processes not only protect youth from underage consumption, but they also protect your business and the entire industry. In the list below, you’ll find updated content on our suggestions for improving your age verification protocols.

  1. Require the common carriers (FedEx, UPS, GSO, etc.) obtain an adult signature upon delivery
  2. Add an age affirmation gate on your website/store/mobile app
  3. Collect the date of birth of the purchaser
  4. Collect the date of birth of the recipient for gift shipments
  5. Use an online age verification provider to verify the age of the purchaser in Georgia, Kansas, Ohio, and Michigan
  6. Use an online age verification provider to verify the age of the purchase for orders to all states
  7. Use an online age verification provider to verify the age of the recipient for all gift orders

Require the common carriers (FedEx, UPS, GSO, etc.) obtain an adult signature upon delivery

This is a requirement for all wine shipments. No ifs, ands or buts about it. Work with your carrier to understand how to make sure your packages properly labeled for alcohol and ensure they’ll check ID and get an adult signature upon delivery.

Update: Additionally, each state has packaging label requirements. Research the states you ship to for these requirements.

Add an age affirmation gate on your website/store/mobile app

This is a pretty simple tool that will go a long way. Add a feature to your site that forces the visitor to affirm that they are of legal drinking age by checking a box prior to entering your website, shopping cart, or mobile application. Last time I mentioned this at a seminar, I got a few calls from some eCommerce companies saying that would damage the search engine optimization (SEO) for the products in the store. My response: you’re smart, figure it out! There’s got to be a slick way of enabling the age gate while also preserving the SEO of your site.

Update: Having Followers must be of legal drinking age posted on your social media platforms is a great way to remind audiences they must be 21 or up.

Collect the date of birth of the purchaser

If you’re going to add an age affirmation tool to your website/store/mobile app, why not take it one step further and collect the date of birth of the purchaser at that point? Alternatively, ask for the date of birth when the purchaser adds wine products to their cart. You’re going to need it at a minimum to include on the direct shipping reports due in Wisconsin, Michigan, and the four counties of Hawaii. You’ll also need it for audit purposes in New York and most of the states that you are shipping into, and it will also make for a much stronger match rate on your age verification checks when using an online provider (see below for details). States will typically require that you keep your records for two years for audit purposes, so we often recommend that you hold onto your data for at least 3-4 years just to be sure. Remember that dates of birth are very sensitive from a privacy perspective, so be sure to store them securely in your files.

Example: www.chandon.com

Collect the date of birth of the recipient for gift shipments

For gift shipments, you’ll also want to collect the date of birth of the recipient. You’ll need this on the shipping reports due in Wisconsin and the four counties of Hawaii, and it will also result in a much stronger match if you decide to do age verification on the recipient. One thing to note here is that the purchaser will often not know the date of birth of the recipient. So, you don’t necessarily have to collect this at the time of transaction, but make sure you have your processes designed such that you can follow up and get the DOB of the recipient prior to shipping.

Use an online age verification provider to verify the age of the purchaser in Georgia, Kansas, Ohio, and Michigan

The states of Georgia, Kansas, Ohio and Michigan all have some kind of requirement for verifying the age of the purchaser. The easiest way to meet these requirements is to use an online age verification provider. ShipCompliant integrates with both Lexis Nexis (formerly ChoicePoint) and also IDology, both of which have been approved by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission. These services run about $.50 per check (per customer), and do not need to be repeated for subsequent purchases from an individual that has already been confirmed to be of legal drinking age. When running an online age verification check, you’ll need the purchasers name, address, and optionally date of birth. As mentioned above, if you include the date of birth you will get a much stronger likelihood of matching the individual in the age check provider’s database.

Update: South Dakota will require an online age verification service. Massachusetts requires information on how you obtain proof of age for sales during the licensing process. Indiana’s new bill laid before the governor, if passed, would need the seller to obtain proof of age as well.

Use an online age verification provider to verify the age of the purchase for orders to all states

Wine Institute and Free the Grapes! both have codes that establish that (from Free the Grapes! code for direct shipping) licensees must verify the purchasers age at the point of online purchase before completing any transaction.‰ Most of the bigger wine companies are therefore choosing not just to run an online age verification check in the four states that require it by statute, but to run online checks on the purchaser in all states that they ship to.

Use an online age verification provider to verify the age of the recipient for all gift orders

For gift shipments, you can also consider running an online age verification check on the recipient. Even though the common carrier will ask for identification and a signature for the person that actually signs for the package upon delivery, some wineries take a conservative approach and choose to run an age check on the recipient as well for gift shipments, especially on gift orders that originate from third party marketers.

Find out how ShipCompliant by Sovos can help your business stay on top of compliance by signing up for a free demo.