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The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones
"The aim is to remove the fear factor from buying online"
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Tuesday, 18 July, 2000, 14:33 GMT 15:33 UK
Putting trust online
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The Consumers Association is checking where it is safe to shop
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

Online shopping looks set to become a less risky venture with the launch of a scheme to hallmark good web traders.

On Tuesday the Government backed TrustUK scheme was unveiled that will police online commerce on behalf of the UK's growing numbers of interet shoppers.

The scheme is looking to recruit trade organisations who will enrol their members into the scheme and ensure they are adhering to high standards of service.

Websites meeting the tough standards will receive a stamp of approval to display on their front page so shoppers can check they are a bona fide member of the scheme.

The biggest danger is that you do not know with whom you are dealing over the internet

Joshua Rowe,

Within the logo is a link back to the TrustUK site that shoppers can use to check up on who they are shopping with.

Site seeing

Among other things the scheme will give customers someone to complain to if something goes wrong with a web transaction.

The TrustUK scheme has the backing of the Alliance for Electronic Business, the Consumers Association and the Direct Marketing Association.

The founding members of TrustUK are now looking to recruit trade associations that will sign up their members to the scheme.

A spokeswoman for the Alliance of Electronic Business said said so far the scheme will only apply to UK companies.

She added that the European Commission is watching the development of the scheme and is considering setting up a continental version.

"We believe that Trust UK will prove to be invaluable as it will be a clear signal to people that it will be safe to shop on the web," said Sheila McKechnie, director of the Consumers' Association.

Only 11% of those questioned in the Which? Online survey thought that they got better service from online stores.

Service with a mouse

Which? Online already runs the Webtrader scheme that ensures members adhere to high standards of customer service.

The main reason that companies are bumped out of the scheme briefly is because they have let down customers on delivery or dealing promptly with a complaint.

But there is a risk consumers will be confused by the number of safe trading schemes that are now proliferating and the different standards of service they support.

Joshua Rowe, chairman of, says many of the existing schemes make it too easy for people to pose as approved sites.

He said it could be hard to spot fraudsters on the internet because it was so easy to produce a slick and professional looking website.

"The biggest danger is that you do not know who you are dealing with over the internet," said Mr Rowe.

TradeSafely is negotiating with the Consumers' Association and the Direct Marketing Association to use its system, which ensures that people are talking to reputable businesses.

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07 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Fraud fear for online bankers
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