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Thursday, 29 November, 2001, 08:30 GMT
Consumers urged to shop online
Christmas shoppers crowd in London's Oxford Street, PA
If you can't face the Christmas crush, shop online
By BBC News Online technology correspondent Mark Ward

Almost half of the people in Britain who shop online are worried that they will become a victim of fraud as a result of paying with a credit card.

A survey released this week by the Department of Trade and Industry shows that 47% of those questioned are concerned about the security of net transactions.

The survey was released to coincide with the start of a government campaign to persuade people that it is safe to shop online.

The campaign is also intended to raise awareness about net shopping, and let people know what consumer rights they enjoy online and to give people advice about ways to ensure their transactions stay safe.

Fraud fear

This is the second year that the government has run the "Clicking With Confidence" campaign, which aims to counter fears about the security of online shopping.

Safe shopping tips
Use sites you know or are recommended
Get the supplier's phone number and postal address
Keep copies of e-mails and order forms
Check your cooling off rights
The law protects you against card fraud
A survey of attitudes to online shopping commissioned by the DTI found that 47% of the 2,013 people questioned were concerned about credit card fraud.

Anti-fraud firm Experian said the net is proving popular with criminals who shop with stolen credit cards or using software that generates plausible card numbers.

Experian said fraud cost UK businesses 57million in the twelve months to March 2000 - up 94% from the previous survey period.

The government-commissioned survey also revealed regional differences among Britain's web shoppers.

Londoners are most likely to be web shoppers, with 35% of those interviewed saying they had bought goods online. Those living in Wales were least likely to be web shoppers - only 14% have spent money online.

Douglas Alexander, e-commerce minister, said the figures showed the government still had a job to do to persuade people that online transactions were safe and could save people time and money.

"We discovered that though more people are shopping online now than ever, they still have concerns about issues relating to the safety of that shopping," he said.

Top shoppers

Consumers believe retailers and online businesses could do much more to protect their customers, according to a separate report into digital fraud by PC maker Compaq.

Those questioned for the report put these firms at the top of a table for those doing a poor job of tackling fraud.

E-commerce minister Douglas Alexander, BBC
Alexander: Wants consumers to shop online
And yet another study released this week shows that Britain leads the European league of net shoppers.

The study, drawn up by Forrester Research, predicts that net shopping will be 160% higher than in 2000, and that UK consumers are leading the charge online.

British cyber-shoppers are expected to account for 35% of the 4.1 billion euros (2.56 billion) that Forrester thinks will be spent this holiday season through e-tailers.

Same rights

As well as reassuring people about credit card transactions the Clicking With Confidence campaign also seeks to let people know how online shopping impacts on consumers' rights.

"There's still a perception that there's a fundamental difference online and offline shopping," Mr Alexander told BBC News Online.

But, he said, consumer rights were the same no matter where a purchase was made.

The government campaign includes a checklist for consumers who want to protect themselves against possible problems.

Although the government is tackling consumers, Mr Alexander said it would leave it to campaigns like the Trust UK scheme to ensure e-tailers dealt fairly with consumers.

Technology writer Jonathan Margolis
"Stick to corporate branded sites"
Do you feel safe shopping online?



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See also:

20 Feb 01 | Business
Credit card fraud rises by 50%
05 Nov 01 | Business
Crackdown on credit-card fraud
18 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Scheme to tempt online shoppers
22 Dec 00 | Sci/Tech
Christmas in cyberspace
12 Oct 00 | UK
A dot of trouble
12 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Profile: Douglas Alexander
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