The Consumers' Association has today announced that the Which? Web Trader scheme -- a voluntary, consumer-focused code of practice for e-tailers in the UK -- is to close at the end of the month.
Which? Web Trader was launched in July 1999 to promote consumer confidence in online shopping by providing an independent code of practice for e-tailers to follow.
Any company adhering to the guidelines would be allowed to display a Which? logo in a bid to reassure consumers about the safety of online shopping.
But a lack of funds has led to the closure of the scheme.
Paul Kitchen, head of online at Consumers' Association, said: "Since Which? Web Trader launched three and half years ago, it has received over 8,000 applications from e-traders, of which 2,700 were accepted, and has successfully resolved over 2,000 disputes on behalf of consumers."
He added: "But providing such an effective and well monitored code costs a significant amount of money each year -- Which? Web Trader has always been free to traders to protect the independence of Which? -- and as a charity and campaigning organisation we need to use our resources in the most efficient way possible. There is still a need to increase consumers' confidence about shopping online and we think it is now up to business and government to set up an alternative scheme to build on [our] successful work."
Which? Web Trader will close on 31 January, 2003, when logos will be withdrawn from traders' sites.