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AUS: Testing the Net

AUS: Testing the Net: International Sweep Day Benchmarks E-Commerce Service

Today's International Internet Sweep Day will test just how well business is being done on the Internet.

"In Australia e-commerce was estimated to have generated $139 million in sales in the past 12 months. And world-wide, it is predicted to grow from $US70 billion this year to $US 1.4 trillion in four years," Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman, Professor Allan Fels, said today. "And a recent survey by a US consulting group showed that privacy was considered to be of large importance to 42 per cent of consumers and that such concerns led 27 per cent to give false information in 'Net questionnaires.

"So the time is now ripe to scrutinise and encourage high standards of customer service and security," he said.

"In today's Internet Sweep Day consumer protection officers world-wide will visit the Internet and examine business sites over 24 hours.

"Ten questions will be used to assess the e-commerce sites. These relate to

disclosure of physical address;

telephone number or e-mail contact details;

itemisation of costs;

information about the security of the online payment mechanism;

applicable currency for the purchase;

possibility of any restriction on the purchase (geographical, parental approval);

refund and exchange policies;

information about how to lodge a complaint;

applicable law; and

privacy policy.

"This is the third annual sweep day organised by the ACCC. This year international agencies from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Germany, New Zealand, Portugal, Ireland, Poland, Austria, Canada, Norway, Finland, France, Denmark, Hungary and Jamaica will join the sweep.

"Australian agencies and non-government groups taking part include: the National Office of the Information Economy; consumer affairs/fair trading offices in the ACT, New South Wales, Western Australia, Victoria and the Northern Territory; the Communications Law Centre, the Internet Industry Association, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and the Consumer Credit Legal Centre, WA.

"The ACCC is receiving increasing numbers of Internet-related complaints and has turned to new enforcement issues to deal with the challenge. These include improved international cooperation with counterpart agencies and proactive investigation.

"It is also re-vamping its 'Slam a Scam' page on its Internet site (www.accc.gov.au) to help consumer become Internet watchdogs.

"The ACCC is working with like-minded agencies to develop international protocols to protect consumers buying via the Internet," Professor Fels said. "Such guidelines are being developed and today's sweep will provide further impetus to their acceptance".

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