Testimony of the Food Marketing Institute

Oversight of Government Management, Restructuring and the District of Columbia Subcommittee
“A License to Break the Law?”

Protecting the Integrity of the Driver’s License United States Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:

Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony on behalf of the 2,300 member companies and the 26,000 retail food stores represented by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). Neighborhood grocery stores are very interested in the integrity of driver’s licenses and applaud the efforts of this Subcommittee in looking at this important issue.

The driver’s license has become a de facto identification card for a host of purposes at the supermarket. Some of these functions are required by government regulations, like age verification for purchasers of alcohol or tobacco products or verification of identification for our industry’s 3.5 million employees. Other uses of the driver’s license include being an important tool for business decisions, like deciding to cash or accept a customer’s check.   New regulations by the U.S. Treasury Department may impose additional identification verification requirements for certain types of financial transactions.

While strongly supporting the effort to improve the integrity of the driver’s license, the food retail industry asks that the following considerations be made to allow for immediate utilization of the existing infrastructure to improve the integrity of the identification process:

  • Retailers should not be prohibited from verifying and recording necessary information from the driver’s license for identity or age verification purposes.

  • The standardization of all state driver’s licenses should include a magnetic stripe in addition to any other emerging technologies that may be added. Magnetic stripe technology is available in most stores immediately. It will likely take years to achieve mass adoption of any emerging technology such as smart card or biometric identification in supermarket check out lanes.

  • No proprietary hardware or data standards should be approved as the only entity or process to facilitate standardization.

  • Date of birth information should be contained on track 2 of the magnetic stripe where it can be read by retail establishments today.   All stores with magnetic stripe readers can read data on track 2. Only a limited number of stores are also capable of reading track 3 with current equipment.

These four considerations will allow for immediate utilization of the existing magnetic stripe infrastructure found in retail establishments to improve the integrity of the identification process.

Should a magnetic stripe not be available on the driver’s license card, or should the information be contained on track 3 instead of track 2, a full scale equipment upgrade would be necessary for supermarkets to read the information, which would come at a cost of $175 million dollars for just the supermarket segment of the retail industry.

We would be pleased to discuss these issues with you or your staff in more depth.