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Companies rank security concerns below competitiveness in the race to get businesses online according to research published by Cap Gemini Ernst & Young.

It also showed the e-banking market in Europe pulling ahead of the US with both markets showing very poor levels of customer service.

In 1997 and 1998 the greatest concern in the ecommerce world was ensuring foolproof security, the researchers said, but by 1999 time to market had become the dominant concern, with 36 per cent of those surveyed in the UK citing it as their greatest concern. Only 17 per cent mentioned security as their priority.

On mainland Europe only 11 per cent of respondents thought that security was the most important issue, despite a recent string of high profile scares.

But security was not the only area that consumers were being short-changed, the researchers said. As many as half of all emails to European online banks are not responded to within eight hours, and in the states this rises to 64 per cent. Another worrying trend was the tendency of banks to give customers inconsistent information about the state of their finances.

The take up of online banking services in Europe has outpaced that in the states. The research found that four per cent of all banking transactions are handled online, compared to three per cent in the US. ®

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