Businesses may be forced to fund e-crime unit

Under a proposal being considered by the Home Office, the private sector would have to contribute to the cost of a national police e-crime unit

Businesses would be forced to contribute to the funding of a national police e-crime unit under the current proposal being considered by the Home Office.

But the private sector has hit back, saying the core funding for a dedicated police unit to combat e-crime must come from the government.

It follows a suggestion that the Policing Central E-crime Unit, proposed by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) and the Metropolitan Police Service, would be jointly funded by the Home Office, Acpo and businesses.

Jeremy Beale, head of e-business at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said: "As regards funding, e-crime is a problem for everyone and often impacts more than one party. Businesses would probably be prepared to pay for services of particular sectoral interest to them. But in general it should be funded out of general taxation."

Catherine Bowen, head of crime policy at the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said businesses would expect to have input on the running of the unit if they were supporting its costs.

She said: "We would expect there to be consultation with our members to ensure their concerns were being properly addressed by the unit."

Influence of big business over the unit concerned the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), with a spokeswoman saying larger companies may be rewarded with more say over its running in return for bigger contributions.

She said: "We need to get away from seeing cybercrime as being synonymous with big business — it affects small businesses just as much. SMEs funding an e-crime unit is not feasible. In short — normal policing is paid for out of the public purse, therefore e-crime too."

Ollie Ross, director of research at blue chip UK Plc IT user group the Corporate IT Forum (Tif), said: "A centralised e-crime unit has to be funded on a sound, secure and long-term basis — any such organisation cannot be impacted by market fluctuations. We have to ensure the next e-crime unit is placed on a firm footing from the start."

A spokesman for Intellect said it is a complicated situation: "There are a lot of stakeholders who have an interest in tackling e-crime, you have the consumers, the retailers, the Financial Services Authority, the government and police.

"There would need to be some very careful consultation over how it would be supported to ensure that it remained independent and representative of these stakeholders."