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The Consumers' Association is to ditch its Which? Web Trader scheme at the end of the month because it costs too much to run.

In an email sent out on Friday to etraders which had signed up to the UK-based scheme, the Consumers' Association claimed it has succeeded in its aim to increase consumer confidence in online shopping.

It even claims to have promoted higher standards in ecommerce. "However, providing such an effective and well-monitored scheme costs a significant amount each year and as a charity and campaigning organisation we need to use our resources in the most efficient way possible," it said.

A formal announcement about the demise of the Web Trader scheme is to be made this afternoon.

Web Traders was set up in June 1999 to establish a comprehensive set of conditions for online trading - including pricing, payment, security, advertising, contracts, refunds, guarantees and complaints handling.

Companies that met these criteria were allowed to publish the Web Trader logo on their websitew.

At the time of the scheme's launch, Sheila McKechnie, of the Consumers Association, said that the initiative had been launched to give online shoppers the same level of confidence as they enjoyed on the high street.

During the three and a half years that the Web Trader scheme has been up and running it has received more than 8,000 applications, accepted 2,700 online traders and resolved more than 2,000 disputes on behalf of consumers. ®

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