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Tuesday, 18 July, 2000, 07:20 GMT 08:20 UK
Scheme to tempt online shoppers
Browsing BBC
Women are browsing but not shopping online
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

Which? Online is launching a scheme to reassure consumers that it is safe to shop on the internet.

The internet arm of the Consumers Association is setting up the Trust UK scheme that will put a hallmark on websites that meet high standards of service.

But consumers risk being confused by the burgeoning numbers of schemes that seek to reassure them that it is safe to shop online.

Critics say that the schemes are insecure and make it easy for fraudsters to pose as approved websites.


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

Joshua Rowe, TradeSafely.com

The Trust UK scheme builds on one of the findings of the Which? Online survey of attitudes towards the internet which found that fraud had become the greatest fear for regular web users.

The scheme is a joint venture with the Alliance for Electronic Business, a trade group representing online businesses, and has the backing of the UK Government.

"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 TradeSafely.com, 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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