Institutes’ WebTrust scheme ignored

WebTrust, the online assurance seal launched by the English and Scots ICAs almost a year ago, has registered only two UK businesses since its launch despite a rising number of web security breaches.

The flagship scheme was designed to help auditors break into the growing market for providing kitemarks for online businesses to provide greater comfort for customers.

John Collier, English ICA’s secretary-general, admitted to an institute council meeting last month: ‘Take-up has been slower than expected.’

But the institute is hopeful WebTrust will gain greater acceptance in the coming year.

Chris Howard, head of assurance services at the English ICA, dismissed concerns over the lack of registrants. ‘It is not an indication of work done within the UK. We’re a bit ahead of ourselves in this area. We’ve been helping companies understand what the risks are,’ he explained.

Howard said the online security breach earlier this year at Barclays could have been avoided had the bank chosen WebTrust. ‘It is the most rigorous seal programme,’ he said.

WebTrust is facing tough competition in a rapidly growing market where dozens of similar assurance seals have emerged over the past few years. WebTrader, a kitemark run by the Consumers Association, now has hundreds of registrants.

Accountants trained to award the WebTrust seal say lack of interest is due to the economy and cost.

Steve Maslin, head of assurance services at Grant Thornton, said: ‘Take-up has been slow. When we start seeing corporate failure, there’ll be a push to get these kitemarks.’

A recent survey by Verdict, a retail analysis company, estimates the online shopping market is worth £1.35bn, an increase of 130% on 1999.


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