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Supermarkets call for change in law following successful self-checkout age verification trial

Image: Adobe Stock

Home Office trials for digital age verification at supermarket self-checkouts have come to a close with supermarkets seeing the technology has useful and calling for a change in the law to allow them to roll out systems to make age verification more seamless.

Last year, UK supermarkets including Morrisons, The Co-op, Tesco and ASDA trialled Yoti’s digital age verification at self-checkouts in a scheme run by the Home Office. During the trial, shoppers in participating stores could try two new ways to prove their age: Facial age estimation tech and a digital ID app.

Facial age estimation technology saw shoppers purchasing alcohol told to look at a camera on the self-checkout and age estimation technology estimated their age. A privacy-preserving solution, it didn’t require any personal details or ID documents, and all images were instantly deleted once someone received their estimated age. If the system detected they looked younger than the set age threshold, customers were asked to use an alternative method. 

The Digital ID app, meanwhile, allowed shoppers to use a free Yoti or Post Office EasyID app to scan a QR code on the checkout screen and share a verified age attribute. 

Customers who did not wish to use digital age verification had the option to ask a staff member to come and approve them and if required show their ID to a colleague instead. 

Following the trial, participating supermarkets confirmed they support digital age verification, and would welcome legislative change in this area after no underage customers purchased age restricted items when using the new Yoti age verification technology.

Informed consent was gathered from all customers, who were given a choice whether to use the technology or present an ID document to a member of staff. The majority of shoppers who used Yoti digital proof of age solutions liked the technology and would use it again, once available.

Additionally, digital age verification technology provided an opportunity to reduce the number of physical age interventions, giving retail staff more time to monitor other activities, including spotting proxy sales.

Alongside these trials, Aldi has been successfully trialling Yoti facial age estimation on its mobile shopper app.

Next steps

Currently, the law requires a person to observe and approve the sale of age restricted items. The Home Office is due to publish full reports with the outcomes of the supermarket trials, and whether digital age verification will become an accepted verification method for the sale of age restricted goods. 

With 70% of people saying they would use facial age estimation when buying age restricted goods at self checkout, Yoti believe shoppers and retailers are ready to embrace this new technology and look forward to reading the full outcome of the trials. 

Yoti facial age estimation is now being used globally by a wide range of social, gaming, ecommerce, adult, gaming and retail organisations. To date, it has completed some 570 million age checks using its privacy-preserving technology, and have the ability to scale to tens of millions of age checks every day. Since the 2022 supermarket trials, Yoti have continued to invest in its facial age estimation technology and have upgraded its online and offline terminal facial age estimation service to enable automatic face capture. 

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