LONDON — U.K.’s Regulatory Policy Committee, which assesses government policies and their likely costs, said that enforcement of the age-verification statute for adult content will cost the government about £4.45 million when it goes into effect in the spring.
As part of the U.K.’s Digital Economy Act, commercial adult sites will be forced to show they are verifying users are over 18. Failure to do so could block companies from taking credit card payments or even see their sites blocked by ISPs in the U.K.
The Regulatory Policy Committee said that age-verification plans approved by the House of Commons last month were “fit for purpose” after assessing the potential economic impact, according to a paper published by the committee and released last week.
The committee, however, warned that the plans do not “assess the costs to pornography providers resulting from the proposal” or estimate what it will cost users. A handful of age-verification firms, such as AVSecure, AgeID and others, have sprung up to offer solutions as third parties to verify users’ ages.
The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), empowered to direct ISPs to block access to sites which fail to comply with appropriate AV requirements and those which host extreme material, likely will block 1 to 50 websites per year, the committee said.
The £4.45 million cost was estimated looking at the U.K. Gambling Commission's expenditure in the 2014/15 fiscal year of £15.8 million. That commission also regulates an online industry with a significant amount of businesses based overseas.
“Additionally, the measure will introduce requirements that enable the regulator to notify payment providers and other ancillary service providers of noncompliant sites, with the intention that services are withdrawn and thus the business models of non-compliant sites disrupted,” the committee said, emphasizing, “government also wants to intervene to ensure that those who profit from pornography being made available online do so in a responsible way."
The committee noted that there are some societal risks posed by AV and its implementation on third-party sites.
“These include the risk that adults and children may be pushed towards the dark web or related systems to avoid AV, where they could be exposed to illegal activities and extreme material that they otherwise would never have come into contact with,” the committee said, noting that there also are “numerous other wider impacts, including privacy/fraud concerns linked to inputting ID data into sites and apps.”