Europeans apprehensive about online shopping

15 Mar 2004

A paltry 16pc of EU citizens shop online, with one in four Europeans that do not use e-commerce admitting to not trusting the medium of the internet, an EU-commissioned survey has found. The findings were presented at a conference in Dublin today by the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, David Byrne.

The findings, published to coincide with European Consumer Day, also claimed that the majority of European consumers do not buy on the internet simply because they do not have access to it.

Speaking at the conference, Commissioner Byrne said: “Developing a thriving e-commerce sector is vital for the competitiveness of Europe’s economy. We cannot do this unless European consumers are prepared to shop on-line. Consumer confidence has to be addressed. This poll shows that trustmarks, or independent verification of a site as trustworthy, may have an important role to play in supporting consumer protection legislation and increasing confidence in online shopping. I intend to present a policy document on online consumer confidence later this year which will help focus the work in front of us.”

The survey found that many people prefer to go to shops and physically select the goods they want to acquire, with 55pc of those not interested in e-commerce giving this as their main reason. Nonetheless, trust does seem to play a major role in consumers’ perception of the Internet. The medium itself is seen as untrustworthy by 25pc of those who do not use e-commerce, particularly as far as payments are concerned. Consumers were also sceptical of the accuracy of information given to them on-line (44pc of non e-commerce users).

The poll supports the findings of a focus group study published by the Commission in January, in which consumers indicated that codes of conduct and/or trustmarks (accreditation of the site as trustworthy by an independent third party) may be an effective way of increasing their confidence in e-commerce. Some 50pc of the consumers polled who were aware of trustmark schemes said they had greater confidence in trustmarked sites. Nonetheless, only 10pc of consumers are currently familiar with the concept of trustmarks.

By John Kennedy