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Verisign Scrooges envisage £4.86bn festive forfeit

Ghost of insecure Christmases past for etailers?

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Online retailers have rubbished claims from the security industry they stand to miss out on billions of pounds of trade this Christmas because of lingering public mistrust in internet transactions.

According to Verisign's 2006 online shopping research, 54 per cent of UK consumers have abandoned a transaction because of security collywobbles. By its reckoning £4.86bn could escape online stores in the run-up to this year's festivities.

The extent of the problem was disputed today by Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) chief executive James Roper. He said: "We won't be missing out on that kind of figure."

The IMRG represents big names in online commerce such as Amazon and Lastminute.com, along with the electronic incarnations of high street perennials Argos and John Lewis.

Roper said: "People have gotten better at online shopping. Credit cards offer excellent protection." He said the IMRG was receiving very few complaints about dodgy online shopping experiences these days.

The IMRG is anticipating another bumper Christmas with the growth of broadband making customer experiences more direct. It said yesterday the industry was growing at £50m per month, and sales of £2.73bn made this October was the best month ever.

Roper said a new wave of investment had come in once the industry recovered from the dot com crash which meant customers had renewed faith in etailers. Twenty-five million Brits will shop for pressies online this Christmas, according to the IMRG.

The research from Verisign is part of a bid to get its "Verisign Secured" seal on more shopping sites, which Verisign reckons would give consumers more confidence. Verisign marketing programs manager Andrew Horbury told us the firm was catching one site a week in Europe displaying a fake security seal graphic. Although it offers the service free to its SSL customers, only a third have taken it up so far.

The firm itself is missing out this Christmas thanks to Microsoft missing its Vista deadlines. The "traffic light" address bar system in IE7, which Verisign hopes to flog a new generation of SSL certificates on the back of, won't be turned on until consumers get their mitts on Vista in January. ®

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