Minister launches TrustUK for ‘shopping e-virgins’

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Patricia Hewitt MP, UK Minister of State at the Department of Trade and Industry (responsible for small business and e-commerce), has launched TrustUK – a new e-hallmark. As new research shows that internet users, particularly women, are still reluctant to shop online, TrustUK traders will issue a ‘shop-on-the-net’ challenge to ‘shopping e-virgins’.

TrustUK will use an independent accreditation panel. Endorsed by the Government, it is a joint venture between the Consumers’ Association and the Alliance for Electronic Business (AEB). TrustUK will monitor codes of conduct to make sure that they provide good protection for online shoppers.

Represented by Sheila McKechnie, director of Consumers’ Association, and Colin Lloyd from AEB, TrustUK announced the first codes to receive approval. From today members of the following organisations will bear the TrustUK e-hallmark on their internet sites:

* Which? Web Trader – the Consumers’ Association online protection code, which has 1,000 business members

* Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) – the leading trade association for the travel industry

* Direct Marketing Association (DMA) – the trade body with 800 member companies involved in on and off line marketing.

At the launch, there was a ‘shop-on-the-net’ challenge which involved six people who use the internet but have never shopped online because of safety reservations. The six ‘shopping e-virgins’ used their credit cards to buy either a toy, to be sent to Great Ormond Street hospital, or flowers or chocolates for a friend or relative. It’s up to TrustUK e-traders - from Chocolatestore.com, Value Direct, Dawson and Son, Lakeland, Confetti.co.uk and Holiday Autos – to persuade them that it is safe to spend money on the net.

New research from Which? Online, the internet arm of Consumers’ Association, shows that there is definitely a need to boost consumer confidence in online shopping. Even when people have access to the internet they are still reluctant to shop online.

* 51 per cent of internet users have not bought anything online; 62 per cent of these people were women.

* Only 23 per cent of internet users think that it is safe to shop online.

* Nearly 90 per cent of internet users want independent certification saying that a site is safe.

Ms Hewitt said : “The message to consumers shopping online is simple: ‘If you want to shop safely, look for the TrustUK hallmark.”

“TrustUK is making great progress towards raising the confidence of consumers shopping on-line. The first online codes have been approved and websites are beginning to display the TrustUK hallmark. It has generated a great deal of interest internationally and encouraged others to adopt similar self-regulatory approaches to e-commerce. All this is excellent news and must be applauded.”

Sheila McKechnie, director of Consumers’ Association, added: “One of the priorities for the Consumers’ Association is to make sure that people have good protection when they shop online. We have been overwhelmed by the success of our own code, Which? Web Trader, which has proved to be popular with both consumers and business. We believe that TrustUK will be invaluable as it will be a clear signal to people that it will be safe to shop on the web. The UK has the chance to be a leader in e-commerce but only if it places consumer protection as a number one priority.”

Colin Lloyd a director of TrustUK and chief executive of the DMA, which is a founding member of the Alliance for Electronic Business stated: “TrustUK is contributing significantly to the Government’s objective of making the UK the best place in the world for e -commerce and is the first such-industry/consumer /government initiative to be launched in the world.”

“There has recently been interest from overseas organisations seeking TrustUK approval and the European Commission have initiated a working group, including TrustUK, to develop a similar framework across the EC”.

The Alliance for Electronic Business comprises five leading business associations: Confederation of British Industry, Computing Services & Software Association, Direct Marketing Association, e-centre UK and the Federation of the Electronics Industry.

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