In another winery-industry effort to make sure minors don't receive direct shipments of alcohol, the San Francisco-based Wine Institute has launched a trial of an age-verification system for wineries selling their products over the phone and the Internet. Only weeks after Wine America, a national association of wineries, teamed up with IDology on a similar product, the Wine Institute announced a partnership with ChoicePoint in Atlanta.
ChoicePoint's technology is already used by other companies selling age-restricted products, such as tobacco and firearms. "We take the information that you provide--name, address and date of birth--and as you enter that information, behind the scenes we would be verifying it," explained ChoicePoint vice president Martin Fagan. "We age-verify using government-issued ID, driver's license, motor-vehicle records and voter records. In addition to that, we add other information we have at our disposal. We probably have somewhere around 7 billion records we can use to age-verify consumers." Participating wineries will be charged a fee for each transaction.
For phone and fax orders, or for producers that do not rely on e-commerce, wineries can use a Web portal to input the customer's name, address and last four digits of their Social Security number. That information will then be used to determine if the person ordering is over the age of 21.
The information that ChoicePoint uses to verify a customer's age is not shared. "Even the winery doesn't get the personal information," said Gladys Horiuchi, communications manager at the Wine Institute, which has 840 California wineries and affiliated businesses as members. "Just a 'yes' or 'no' from ChoicePoint. According to FTC reports, there haven't been any problems with underage sales, but because of all the laws changing in these various states, we just wanted to provide extra assurance that we're doing everything we can to prevent underage sales." Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision on direct shipping in May, New York, Connecticut and Ohio have changed their laws to allow direct shipping, and Florida is working out how it will deal with a determination that its shipping ban is unconstitutional.
State shipping laws already require that the recipient of a wine shipment show proof of legal drinking age before signing for the package. "There's back-end assurance that the person receiving the product is over 21," Fagan said. "How we're working is on the front end. It's really a voluntary program that's going over and above what the guidelines are."
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