UK online shoppers still lack confidence

Over-cautious behaviour, resulting from scares such as the recent Barclays and PowerGen security scandals, has reduced the potential of ecommerce to bring greater competition and consumer choice, the NCC told’s sister site

The council’s report – Ecommerce and Consumer Protection – found that unless problems with online security are addressed, the fear of fraud would continue to be a deterrent to online retail.

Despite the UK’s support for dotcom enterprises, and the government’s insistence that the UK will become the central hub for ecommerce, purchasing is still one of the least popular online activities, said the report.

More than a quarter of UK households have internet access and even more users have access at work, but only three per cent of users are regular internet shoppers.

‘The overwhelming impression we received is that consumers sense there is a lack of respect for their rights and their safety online,’ said the NCC.

‘Consumers are asked to pay for goods before they have seen them, and to hand over personal and financial details up front in an environment that they hear all the time harbours shady characters.’

According to the NCC, these fears are not irrational. ‘Banks and ebusinesses have to get their act together and start providing secure services,’ said spokeswoman Janice Allen.

Visa recently surveyed 15 European banks and found that credit card payments account for half of all complaints, and that more than one in five came from people billed for online transactions who had not even shopped on the internet.

The NCC also quoted the Office of Fair Trading ‘In most cases your shopping experience should be no more risky than buying by mail order or on the phone. But you need to be aware of possible dangers and should take certain precautions to make shopping across the internet safe. This is an area where consumer protection is developing.’

But Allen said if ecommerce is to take hold in the UK, government and business need to acknowledge and address the reality of consumer scepticism.

‘Currently, the benefits of ebusiness are outweighed by unacceptable levels of risk unless adequate measures for consumer protection and redress are put in place, not just in the UK but across European borders,’ she said.

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