Online pornography: age-verification commences 15 July in the UK

April 18, 2019

The UK government has announced that age verification measures for online pornography will come into force in the UK on 15 July 2019.

Under the Digital Economy Act 2017, commercial providers of online pornography will be required to carry out robust age-verification checks on users, to ensure that they are aged 18 or over.  Websites that do not implement age-verification technology may have payment services withdrawn or be blocked for UK users.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the new laws. It has confirmed that it will begin enforcement on 15 July, following an implementation period to allow websites time to comply with the new standards.

The UK government says that it has considered privacy concerns and that the age-verification arrangements should only be concerned with verifying age, not identity. In addition to the requirement for all age-verification providers to comply with current data protection legislation, the BBFC have created a voluntary certification scheme, the Age-verification Certificate (AVC), which will assess the data security standards of age verification providers. The AVC has been developed in cooperation with industry, with input from government.

Certified age-verification solutions which meet these data protection conditions will be certified following an independent assessment and will carry the BBFC’s new green ‘AV’ symbol. Details will also be published on the BBFC’s age-verification website ( so that consumers can make an informed choice between age-verification providers.

The change in law is part of the UK government’s commitment to making the UK the safest place in the world to be online, especially for children. It follows last week’s publication of the Online Harms White Paper which sets out clear responsibilities for tech companies to keep UK citizens safe online, how these responsibilities should be met and what would happen if they are not.

There will be a number of age-verification options available, so a user can choose.  The government said that the checks will be rigorous – users will not be able to just type in their date of birth or tick a box. Age-verification solutions range from the use of traditional ID documents online (for example, credit cards or passports) to mobile phones where the adult filters have been removed. Users can also use digital IDs or buy a card over the counter in a shop where the verification is face to face.