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Spam fears dampen online Christmas shopping

Nearly half of all consumers say they will limit their online shopping during the festive season because of junk email and credit card fears

Nearly half of consumers are planning to limit their online shopping during the Christmas season due to fears related to privacy, with smaller online retailers particularly affected, according to a survey commissioned by nonprofit certification organisation TRUSTe.

The survey, for which research firm NFO WorldGroup polled 1,212 consumers, found that 49 percent of respondents said that privacy concerns would limit their online Christmas shopping to some extent. Of this segment, 5.6 percent said they would not shop online at all this year.

Consumers said they would avoid online shops because of junk email and fears over identity theft and loss of credit card information.

Unfortunately for smaller businesses, one-third of those polled said they were less willing to purchase items from a smaller online retailer than a well-known brand. The primary reason was a perception that smaller businesses were more inclined to misuse personal information.

"The results of this survey reveal that privacy fears will be the Grinch that stole Christmas for many e-tailers," said TRUSTe executive director Fran Maier in a statement.

Analysts predict that this Christmas online consumers will be spending more than last year -- with Britons forging ahead of other European nations, spending up to £1.3bn, according to a Jupiter Research report. Western Europe as a whole will shell out £4.6bn -- up 46 percent on 2002.

Technology will be leading the way in online shopping, as consumers rush to snap up this year's must-have items, including iPods and other electronic goodies such as digital cameras. Electronics are proving a popular online purchase, as e-tailers seek to get one over on their bricks and mortar equivalents by offering discounted prices as well as free delivery.

Another e-tail sector that could be having a very merry Christmas is online food shopping, according to Jupiter.

Silicon.com's Jo Best contributed to this report.