Those in opposition to direct shipments of wine may find themselves with one less argument in their arsenal. A new technology introduced by Tallahassee, Fla.-based IDology would make it easier for wineries to verify that customers ordering wine over the phone or Internet are indeed 21 or older.
To encourage wineries to embrace the product, IDology has teamed up with WineAmerica, a national association of wine producers, to offer it on a trial basis. "It's going to put at the hands of these small wineries--at a very economical level--a technology that is going to blunt a lot of the criticism that comes from distributors and others who argue that you have to have a face-to-face transaction," said WineAmerica president David Sloane.
The product, called IDlive, is already being used by Wine.com and Lamborn Family Vineyards in Napa Valley. IDlive runs the purchaser's information against a database containing public government records, and then formulates a series of three questions to ask the potential customer--anything from the color of a car the customer used to own to a former address or the name of an old friend.
"They're not out-of-wallet questions," said IDology group senior research and compliance director Sheila Darrow. "These are not questions that your child may be able to answer, and they are not questions that someone who had stolen your wallet would be able to answer." For phone orders, the representative taking the call can log in to a portal that will generate the verification questions.
The data is never shared, stored, sold or reused, according to IDology, and all the questions are asked and answered over an encrypted network. The system does not require the customer to provide sensitive information in advance, such as a Social Security number, and it processes all the information in real time.
IDology charges users of IDlive a small fee per transaction. "It's well worth the nominal fees they charge just so we know we're doing the responsible thing," said Brain Lamborn, who heads Lamborn Family's sales and distribution. "It's definite peace of mind."
IDology does age-verification and fraud-prevention work for the government and for a number of retail, spirits and tobacco companies. The company had been working with WineAmerica for about a year to come up with a compliance system in advance of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the direct-shipping laws of New York and Michigan.
WineAmerica already has a wine-shipping program in place with FedEx, which requires that an adult sign for the package upon delivery and that wine is not left by the door if no one is home to receive it. "We felt pretty good about ensuring the integrity of direct shipment as a secure means of delivery to the person it was intended to get to," Sloane said. "But this adds another layer of security to it."
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