UK Net shoppers are to be offered a high-security anonymous shopping service courtesy of Securicor, a company better known for securing banks in the real world.
Securicor will invest £7m in the service, Securicor eSolutions, which will allow users to shop on the Internet anonymously without handing over credit card details and which will also guarantee delivery of Internet goods.
Stephen Taylor, chief executive of eSolutions, says potential for e-commerce in the UK is yet to be realised. "At the moment less than one in 20 site visits results in a purchase, and our own research has shown that 65 percent of Internet shopping baskets are currently abandoned at the payment stage," he says.
Concerns over online security and the treatment of personal data by Internet firms has put up to 40 percent of Internet users off Web shopping, according to figures from the National Consumer Council. Poor delivery of goods and plenty of negative publicity has also hampered the reputation of e-commerce in the UK.
Securicor delivers £1bn to banks each day, and says that its Internet venture will undergo rigorous security testing.
Privacy has become a particularly hot potato for retailers in the digital age. By allowing customers to shop in anonymity, the scheme challenges the position of many online retailers that rely on gathering customer information for advertising revenue and market research purposes.
Customers will have the chance to register for the service from spring of 2001, which will give them access to goods from participating online retailers. They will only have to hand over their credit card information once to Securicor making it less vulnerable to interception by computer fraudsters at various sites.
Attempts by the Government to set standards among online retailers and reassure consumers that it is safe to shop online, have been severely dented by numerous online security breaches. Securicor believes that it has the reputation and the brand recognition to offer customers peace of mind.
"Securicor's widely trusted brand is exactly what is needed to boost UK confidence in the online environment," says non-executive director of Securicor eSolutions, professor Jim Norton. "It is easy-to-use and shields both customers and, to a significant degree, online retailers from fraud and the problems of the misuse of information."
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