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ATVOD spanks porn sites for failing to age verify users as UK restrictions tighten

ATVOD has issued enforcement notices to two adult video providers for breaching age verification guidelines. 

The quango, which regulates video on demand services, found that Candy Girl Productions, which operates over 33 sites, and Scott XXX had failed to properly check whether or nor its users were over the age of 18. 

Candy Girl Productions is thought to have revised its age checking system, which allowed unrestricted access to still images of hardcore material. 

On-demand providers must now comply with the same rules that bind high street sex shops in the UK

The provider of Candy Girl Productions has filed an appeal with Ofcom against a separate ruling that the service falls within the scope of the statutory rules.

Though ATVOD has the power to issue notices on whether a service complies with regulations it doesn’t have the authority to issue fines. That power lies with Ofcom, which slapped Playboy TV with a £35,000 fine in 2013

Scott XXX, which features “straight lads showing off and having their stinky feet worshipped” failed to provide age checks for still images or video, regardless of whether customers had paid or not. The company is thought to have responded by shifting its base of operations to France. ATVOD states that it’s informed the CSA – France’s equivalent of Ofcom – of the move and has advised on regulatory action there. 

Chief executive of ATVOD Pete Johnson said that sites moving overseas could see credit card payments from the UK blocked

Johnson said: “Our recent enforcement activity has sent a clear message that UK providers of hardcore pornography on demand must take effective steps to ensure that such material is not accessible to under-18’s. 

“Asking visitors to a website to click an ‘I am 18’ button or enter a date of birth or use a debit card is not sufficient – if they are going to offer explicit sex material they must know that their customers are 18, just as they would in the ‘offline’ world.”

The fines come as restrictions of the types of adult content that can be shown by UK-based on demand services in the UK are tightened under the Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014. 

As of now, UK-based streaming services cannot show material that would see hardcopy films ineligible for an R18 certificate. Despite the 2012 court victory of Michael Peacock, charged with selling illegal hardcore pornography in a landmark case, the BBFC has yet to revise its R18 guidelines. 

Update: Speaking further to Johnson, we asked how blocking credit card payments would hurt overseas sites like PornHub and RedTube which let users access hardcore video content without asking for card details of age verification. 

Johnson argued that tube sites with free and paywall sections would suffer if credit card payments from the UK were blocked.

“If you look at the ‘freemium’ business model of those services, they depend on affiliates providing free content as a loss leader in order to attract customers to their paid subscription services,” said Johnson.

“Both [PornHub and RedTube] also offer ‘premium’ subscription services of their own which include high def content and full length videos.

“Our view is that cutting off the funds to premium services (including PornHub Premium and RedTube Premium) which use the free sites as a marketing platform would disrupt and undermine the free and unrestricted provision of hardcore porn. Without the underlying payments, the free sites would wither on the vine.”

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