Virgin is to invest #50 million in electronic commerce, to give each company in the business group its own Ecommerce facility by the end of the year.
Virgin has also dropped the #11.99 subscription charge to its Internet service, following the recent surge in free Internet access offers.
Richard Branson, head of the Virgin empire, explained: "Anyone who ignores the Internet is foolish. (Ecommerce) will radically enhance the way in which we serve our customers in the future."
Virgin Net will offer free Internet access to all its existing 150,000 customers from 1 April, and to the general public from 1 May.
Unlike other free services, which charge 50p and more for telephone support, Virgin has decided to go for a two tier approach. Members can either pay a premium rate of #1 per minute for support, or a subscription rate of #5.99 per month.
Branson said that content would be a core part of Virgin's portal, but he does not believe that consumers should have to pay for it.
"We are offering it free to the customer along with free access. If we have cinema seats available or seats on a flight to Orlando, for example, we can let our customers know about special deals," he explained.
Virgin Net plans to add further channels to its portal site. The first is likely to be a personal finance site, which will go live in March.
- Branson interview: www.vnunet.co.uk.
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