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A government-backed scheme designed to protect online shoppers was launched today amid protests from etailers that it will do little to protect consumers.

TrustUK was thrust on an unassuming British public by Patricia Hewitt, the Minister of State at the DTI. The venture aims to create a hallmark that traders will stick on their Websites to inspire consumer confidence in buying online.

The logo will be free to companies that sign up for the TrustUK regulations covering order fulfilment, payment security and data privacy. Three groups have so far been accredited to let their members bear the hallmark - the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), and Which? Web Trader - part of the Consumers Association, which is behind Trust UK.

The stunt aims to reassure British shoppers that it is safe to buy online. And it is well overdue according to research from Which?, which has found that half of British Internet users have never bought anything online, and just 23 per cent think it is safe to shop on the Internet.

These statistics are not particularly surprising, especially considering the amount of horror stories surrounding hacking and Internet security.

Two e-traders today came out against the scheme - Clicksure.com and Trust-Online. Clicksure.com is one of the scheme's founding fathers and a rival to TrustUK in that it has its own accreditation scheme for Websites.

Trust-Online, criticised TrustUK as too British and too lax.

Rachel Dean, Clicksure's COO, said: "It's a great idea - a fantastic concept, and great for raising awareness in the UK. But there are several things that need further evolution before we can sign up."

According to Dean, a UK logo is too restrictive for the global e-commerce market - Clicksure would like to see an international symbol. "It seems to be limiting UK sites to the UK," she said. Clicksure also claims the scheme is too complaints-centric, and that TrustUK will not sufficiently monitor the sites applying for the hallmark.

"If we're going to increase confidence in e-commerce, it won't be about publicising complaints. We would like TrustUK to look at things on a global basis, and at how it is going to monitor where the standards are," Dean added. ®

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