The English ICA has insisted that its new assurance scheme designed to increase the confidence of consumers buying on the web will not leave accountants liable for losses. Amid rising concerns about e-commerce security, the ‘WebTrust’ scheme applies a seal of approval after a series of tests to individual websites, aiming to guarantee consumers security and integrity. The institute will base its criteria on three main areas: security, privacy and delivery of goods. So far, around 360 chartered accountants have qualified as ‘web auditors’ via a two-day course to appraise website operators. A review will take place on a three-monthly basis. However, concerns have been raised during the development of the scheme that accountants awarding approvals could be held financially liable if website customers suffer from any financial losses. But Chris Howard of the institute’s audit faculty, who is heading up the scheme, denied that this would be the case. ‘Obviously we would strip the web operator of our seal of approval,’ he said. ‘Our seal only confirms whether or not the web operators comply with what they commit to in their dealings,’ he added. The WebTrust appraisal programme already exists in the US and Canada, and was recently adopted in Australia, New Zealand and France. Details of the scheme can be found on the institute’s assurance service website at www.icaew-webtrust.co.uk.
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