A group of 300 Web merchants has drawn up a set of best practice guidelines to try and promote consumer confidence when buying online.
The Council for Internet Commerce said its members, which include Altavista, Mondex, Levis and Fedex, will adhere to a set of minimum requirements and aim to conform to a list of recommended practices to ensure customers understand their business policies. The recommendations will also be made available to non member merchants.
Jim Hake, founder of the Council, said: "Buying online can be a great experience and other times it can be unsatisfactory. Certain things could be improved."
Although the specifications were drafted by merchants, Hake acknowledged that non members may take issue with the recommendation that consumers be allowed to control what information websites hold on them.
"Privacy is a lightening-rod issue," he said, adding that Amazon.com's privacy policies were "not user friendly" because consumers did not have control over what the bookseller did with their personal information.
The minimum set of requirements include merchants providing their company name and contact details and their policies on privacy and security, warranties, services, charges, returns, refunds and restrictions.
Hake said that the latter requirement was of particular importance to European consumers because some US websites did not want to deal with overseas customers.
The Council has also drawn up a list of recommended practices, which, it acknowledged, some websites may not be able to meet because they lack the infrastructure. These include the ability to undertake one-click ordering and shipment tracking.
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