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Thursday, 12 October, 2000, 04:25 GMT 05:25 UK
Net shopping 'pitfalls' warning
Online shopping
A third of puchases by Trading Standards ran into trouble
Shopping on the internet is often slower, more expensive and more hassle than buying goods in a shop, according to the Trading Standards Institute.

In one of the largest surveys of internet shopping sites yet conducted in the UK, officers tried to make test purchases from 102 companies.

They found that 38% of orders did not arrive at the specified time and 17% did not arrive at all.

Problems included a firm that took credit card details then vanished and a national flower delivery chain that failed to deliver the bouquet but took the cash anyway.


There are still too many internet traders who are either not aware of their obligations to their customers or, worse still, don't care

Trading Standard's Allan Charlesworth
The officers also dealt with a confectionery company whose chocolates arrived crushed and a company that charged 10 to deliver a computer mouse 15 miles away.

Bigger, well-known retailers were deemed among the worst offenders, while smaller companies often appeared to try harder.

The survey also found that 25% of the sites tested were not secure, meaning that credit card details and other data could be accessed by hackers.

In addition some sites had misleading adverts or did not have a company name or address.

And less than half showed that consumers have the right to return goods up to seven days after they are received. This will become law on 31 October.

Officers concluded that consumers can buy goods quicker, cheaper and with less hassle in a shop.

Chief executive of the Trading Standards Institute, Allan Charlesworth, said many internet companies were letting their customers down.

Trend

"Internet shopping is a growing trend and though it is extremely convenient it has pitfalls, which we must seek to avoid," he said.

"Some of the big names in retailing are not getting customer service right in their e-commerce trading - as shown by recent surveys by trading standards professionals.

"I am pleased that many businesses are trying to get it right but there are still too many internet traders who are either not aware of their obligations to their customers or, worse still, don't care."

The Trading Standards Institute has produced a new booklet to help stop people getting stuck on the internet, called Shopping On The Internet - Better Safe Than Sorry.

Consumer Affairs Minister Dr Kim Howells said the leaflet would help shoppers get the best from the internet.

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