Government's secure shopping scheme condemned

Critics claim that the standards just aren't high enough

A government scheme to increase consumer confidence in buying online launched Tuesday has been overshadowed by stiff criticism from a former partner on the project.

The initiative -- TrustUK -- is backed by Consumer Association body, Which? and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). It provides certification for e-commerce sites deemed safe for customers to use. But independent e-commerce certification organisation Clicksure -- involved with the scheme until recently -- claims that TrustUK is inadequate.

"We have worked with the DTI for a number of months on what TrustUK should contain, but reached the conclusion that the certain criteria weren't being met," says chief marketing officer at Clicksure, Phil Hendey.

In order to be certified under the TrustUK scheme, sites must sign an agreement promising to abide by its regulations. But Clicksure claims the protocols will not produce high enough standards and suggests the scheme is UK-centric. "In terms of rigour and confidence, this is hardly the message we want to send out to businesses and consumers," adds Hendey.

The DTI argues that consumers can put their faith in the TrustUK program. "We feel that TrustUK's criteria are of a high enough standard that it allows all customers to trade safer. But they're not too high that new companies can't meet them," says a spokesman.

Concerns over the government's new scheme may well worry some shoppers. A survey released earlier this month by software firm London Bridge Software (LBS) indicates that many UK consumers are indeed wary of buying online.

Another survey from US Internet security firm ArmorGroup suggests that these fears are well founded and suggests that fraudulent e-commerce sites and services are rife on the Internet.

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