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Tuesday, 26 November, 2002, 02:13 GMT
Fraud fears still hamper online sales
Computer users
Consumers' confidence in online shopping is growing
The number of Britons doing Christmas shopping online is expected to soar this year but the government says fear of fraud is still preventing sales reaching their potential levels.

UK internet sales during the festive season are expected to exceed 1.7bn as consumers almost double their online spending to beat the High Street crush.

People are more confident about online shopping than at this time last year.

But they still have fears about revealing personal information, credit card fraud and bogus companies remain major factors, a Mori poll commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry suggests.

Shopping abroad

The research has also revealed that the internet is the most common way of buying things from abroad, ahead of shopping trips and telephone ordering.

Percentage of online browsers who buy
UK - 70%
Sweden - 61%
Australia - 56%
France - 47%
Hong Kong - 42%
Spain - 35%
Source: Nielsen/Netratings
Low prices and convenience appear to be the main motivators and the USA, France and Spain are the most popular web destinations for Britons.

The government is keen to encourage more net shopping, with Consumer Minister Melanie Johnson telling shoppers that online retail can be safe if they follow a few simple rules.

She is advising consumers to use websites they know or that have been recommended, obtain suppliers' telephone numbers or postal addresses and keep copies of order forms or e-mails.

Shoppers should also check their "cooling off" rights and remember the law protects them against card fraud, the DTI says.

Net attraction

Despite security fears, UK surfers are more likely to make online purchases than many other nationalities, according to figures from net measurement firm Nielsen/NetRatings.

"Internet shoppers in Britain have an inherent advantage in that their English-speaking populations can easily access and use the large US e-commerce providers," said Richard Goosey, chief of measurement science at Nielsen/NetRatings.

"E-commerce continues to gain momentum in many countries, as the adult population has increasingly browsed for and purchased products online in the past six months," he said.

Mr Goosey said the UK could be in for a record-breaking year for online Christmas shopping.

Online recovery

The online retail sector was largely written off when the bubble burst two years ago.

The image of online retailers - dubbed "e-tailers" - was tarnished in particular by the high-profile collapse of online fashion retailer in May 2000.

However, sales have been gradually turning a corner and giant online bookseller,, announced its first profit this time last year.

Although consumers have become more relaxed about giving out their credit card details over the internet, worries about online security issues are still seen as a major obstacle to the wider take-up of internet shopping.

Online fraud
Are you wary of giving out your credit details?
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