Trading Standards condemns Internet shopping

Study finds that goods ordered online often arrive late if at all

Shopping online has been condemned as too expensive, too slow and too much hassle in a Trading Standards Institute report released Thursday.

Officers from the Institute carried out a survey of e-commerce sites, and found that 38 per cent of orders were not fulfilled on time. Seventeen percent never arrived at all.

"This is not the death knell for e-commerce. Everyone knows there are problems on the security and fulfilment side which is fairly typical of any mail order service," said Alison Hopkins, senior policy officer at the National Consumer Council. Jenny McCruden, lead officer for National Consumer Week at the Trading Standards Institute argued "the trade can improve the situation once they've recognised that the law is the same on the Net as in the high street".

The survey found bigger Web sites to be the worst offenders, while smaller companies appeared to be making more effort.

A quarter of sites tested were found to have inadequate security. One even breeched security regulations by e-mailing customer credit card details to a third party.

The Institute concluded that dissatisfied customers would be better advised to stick to bricks-and-mortar. "The hype is finally coming home to roost -- the Internet isn't cheaper and it isn't offering anything revolutionary, it's just another way of shopping," said Hopkins.

Distance selling regulations are to be implemented on 31 October that will set an EU directive for online shopping. The law will ensure a seven day cancellation right for Internet consumers.

See techTrader for more technology investment news, plus quotes and research.

To have your say online click on the TalkBack button and go to the ZDNet News forum.

Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read what others have said.