Giving consumers confidence in the process of buying on-line is, we are told, the golden key to UK/European take-off for b to c commerce.
Topic: Selling on-line
Who: ASA, DMA, UK Govt, Consumers’ Association, EuroCommerce and EuroChambres, OECD, ICA, Uncle Tom Cobbley
When: Daily (almost)
Giving consumers confidence in the process of buying on-line is, we are told, the golden key to UK/European take-off for b to c commerce. The message, assuming it’s true, has certainly hit home, as by the autumn of 2000 there will be at least seven separate schemes/codes seeking to persuade consumers in the UK and beyond that there is nothing to worry about when a particular logo appears on screen. First out of the starting blocks were the Consumers’ Association, who launched their Webtrader trust mark scheme in 1999. It is still the most known-about and internationally recognised scheme, supported as it is in at least 6 EU Member States, with consumers' organisations in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain adopting the scheme and others in Europe and Australasia likely to follow suit.
Then, in March 2000 the OECD adopted a recommendation for guidelines for consumer protection in e commerce, followed in April by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales, Scotland & Ireland, who bless ‘em, announced WebTrust. Awarded only to web traders submitting to and passing the WebTrust audit, the logo was "designed to bring confidence to consumers wishing to buy goods on the internet."
In July 2000 the "European Association", representing retailers and wholesalers and European Chambers of Commerce, launched a "Quality Global Service" scheme "in order to ensure that consumers have confidence in e commerce." The scheme features a Code of Conduct and, you guessed it, a logo to indicate that the Code is respected by the e tailer. Another logo will be with us in the autumn, we are told, from our own Advertising Standards Authority, whose (as yet nameless) "accreditation" scheme will apparently charge online advertisers an annual fee to be part of it.
Finally (or then again probably not) the combined forces of the Alliance for Electronic Business (representing the CBI, the Computing Services & Software Association the DMA, E-centre UK and the Federation of the Electronics Industry)and the Consumers’ Association will with the UK Government’s blessing launch in mid July 2000 TrustUK.
This is intended to be quite literally the mummy and daddy of all e codes, as it will not have "direct effect" in a selling context, but will be more a benchmark by which all other e codes are judged. Codes that meet the TrustUK criteria will be able to use the TrustUK logo (yes another one). Codes that don’t will….not be able to show the logo.
Why this matters:
Clearly self regulation or in the view of some "co-regulation" as it is called (self regulation with legal underpinning) is the preferable way to tame the net and win consumer confidence, assuming it is this as opposed to apathy and contentedness with off-line commerce that is the problem.
The cynical observer might comment, however, that it is difficult to see how this miasma of schemes, codes and logos can do anything but utterly confuse consumers and fatally undermine the achievement of the very objective they all seek to achieve.