Government to promote consumer confidence on Net

The government published a consultation document Thursday aimed at getting a better deal for online shoppers.

The White Paper -- Modern Markets: Confident Consumers -- lays out a raft of initiatives to improve consumer confidence both on and offline. Released by the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry), it comes ahead of Friday's publication of the long-awaited e-commerce bill.

The document sets out government plans to introduce a digital hallmark for Internet traders who abide by strict codes of practise. These will include giving a guarantee about security of payments and privacy of information. A recent Consumer Association survey found 60 percent of Web surfers feared that personal information would be exploited on the Net.

A new body will be set up to accredit e-commerce codes and the government will work in Europe for an EU-wide code. A Web site to help consumers with online shopping is also planned.

The Consumer Association welcomed the government plans. "Consumer confidence has to highlighted and will determine the success or failure of e-commerce," a spokesman said. The Which? WebTrader scheme has already received government backing and so far over sixty firms have signed up and received a WebTrader logo.

Thomas Power, chairman of e-commerce education portal Ecademy is in favour of anything the government can do to promote e-commerce but believes consumers still need a motive to go shopping on the Web. "Many people are worried about credit card details but mainly they haven't got a motive yet. They need to learn Internet shopping is cheaper," he said.