WebTrust faces legal minefield

An assurance service for websites launched by the English, Scottish and Irish ICAs could find itself in a legal minefield, electronic commerce experts have warned.

WebTrust, pioneered by US and Canadian accountancy bodies, will allow ICA members to give their seal of approval to companies selling goods on the World Wide Web. Security will be the main concern for any validation, but the scheme – which charges small firms around #7,000 – will also look at how goods are ordered and delivered from a website.

The institutes claim 30 firms have expressed an interest in the scheme.

But Jonathan Fowler, services director at JCP, an information security specialist, questioned whether the quality guarantee would satisfy online consumers: ‘If you have a seal of approval from accountants, it’s not something a consumer will take into account when making a purchase online.’

Fowler said the assurance service should shoulder some liability costs resulting from security breaches on company sites. ‘If something goes wrong will I be able to get my cash back?’ he asked.

Big Five consultants, including KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers, are involved in the not-for-profit project.

Bill Hutchison, a director of KPMG’s e-commerce practice, accepted the forum still had to resolve liability issues but said a BSI-type Kite mark for websites meant that internet commerce was being taken more seriously.

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