Age verification, one easy step to piss off your customers*

Oh brother, I fear the next few blogs posts of mine might just start with a rant… this one’s no exception.

You may or may not be aware of a feature o2 have recently implemented on their mobile internet of which verifies a users age before they’re allowed on a website that might not be suitable for under 18s. This age verification check seems to have annoyed many of the people I follow on the internet (one such example), but it didn’t bother me, as I had moved from o2 to GiffGaff a few months ago this wouldn’t effect me… or so I though.

I already knew GiffGaff were part of the o2 network, however had assumed that the age verification “feature” wouldn’t be passed down to the separate company. But much to my disappointment it had, and what’s more is that it looks like no one had been informed of this change.

I checked for myself and hit carling.com and pkr.com**, companies that you’d perhaps see on a television advertising major sporting events or entertainment programs, yet have been blocked by o2. I guess I don’t have an issue with blocking websites to protect children from inappropriate content, but the way o2 have handled the situation has disollusioned me (and others) somewhat.

To verify my age I must either own a credit card or go into an o2 store with some photo ID. The following paragraph has been ripped from the o2 age verification faq:

Q: Why do customers need a credit card to age verify with O2?
A: You don’t have to. You can also take photo ID (passport, driving license) into an O2 retail store, where they can be age verified by our store staff. But credit card is the most convenient method for most customers. Because you have to be over 18 to have a credit card, it’s fool proof in that respect. […]

The problem is I don’t own a credit card, equally getting the hundreds of thousands of o2 customers without a credit card to go into a store to verify their age seems backwards. So until then I’m going to have restricted access to the internet I pay for.

This ass covering tactic may keep the lawyers happy, but I cannot help but think this should have been an opt-in process, should it not be up to the parent to say whether or not their child should be allowed a mobile phone, and if so have a age restriction in place? And for those who say that children can purchase phones for themselves, should devices with access to inappropriate content be sold to under 18s?

I suppose there are so many angles to this story, but like in most cases it’s not the age verification I have an issue with, just how poorly o2 have handles the situation.

* And I mean really piss them off
** Beware, these websites link to nasty things… don’t open them from within 50 feet of someone under 18… or who hasn’t had their age verified by o2