Which? to end e-commerce scheme

The Which? Web Trader kitemark scheme that promised consumers they were shopping safely is to finish at the end of the month

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 Web Trader will close on 31 January, 2003, when logos will be withdrawn from traders' sites.

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