UK e-minister Patricia Hewitt today launched an ecommerce scheme aimed at increasing consumer confidence in online shopping.
The scheme, called TrustUK, will accredit businesses trading on the internet provided that they adhere to codes of practice. Accredited traders will be able to display the TrustUK hallmark on their websites - a valuable asset for lesser known companies.
TrustUK was sparked by a government initiative designed to safeguard online consumers and is part of a joint project between the Alliance for Electronic Business (AEB) and Consumers' Association.
"The government is determined to make the UK the best place in the world for ecommerce. To do this we need modern markets, confident consumers and a leading-edge government," said Hewitt.
"TrustUK is all about consumer confidence. Although often exaggerated, fears about security and about being ripped off are undoubtedly holding people back from buying on the internet. TrustUK will help put those fears to rest. Consumers will be able to identify those websites which offer good service and protection," she added.
TrustUK will be delivered in two phases. Businesses were today invited to apply for accreditation, and the scheme will be unveiled to consumers in May.
Traders displaying the TrustUK hallmark will have to abide by a code of practice that meets the Office of Fair Trading standards, and have procedures in place to resolve customer complaints.
If a company is found to be in breach of a code, TrustUK can "withdraw accreditation, which would mean that whey would suffer from a loss of consumer confidence", said a spokeswoman for the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), which is part of the AEB.
Apart from being forced to remove the TrustUK logo from their website, notice would be sent to the press. Further powers could involve financial penalties. "We would be looking at fines in the future," said the spokeswoman.
David Shanahan, business manager of BT eBusiness, said: "One crucial element of building trust in ebusiness is the promotion of consumer trust and confidence. We feel sure that the visibility of the TrustUK logo will provide the comfort and assurance to consumers when trading electronically."
Online codes of practice seeking TrustUK accreditation can expect to pay between £1000 to £5000. The TrustUK Accreditation Committee, chaired by Lord Borrie QC, will consider applications.
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