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UK is biggest nation of web shopaholics - Euro poll

Ofcom survey also prods flagging fibre uptake

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UK shoppers order more stuff online than their European neighbours - and worry the least about how their personal data is used on social networking sites even though seven out of ten Brits admit having concerns about privacy.

That's according to Ofcom's latest International Communications Market study, which also determined that take-up in Blighty of broadband services with speeds of at least 25Mbit/s is lagging far behind other countries.

Only 4 per cent of UK households had subscribed to those services as of June this year, Ofcom said. That compared with a 40 per cent sign-up in Japan and a 10 per cent switch to faster broadband speeds in the US.

However, the overall picture in Europe for adoption of fibre technology was poor. Germany saw only a 3 per cent take-up of superfast broadband, Spain saw 2.2 per cent of subscribers shift gears and Italy pulled in a piddling 1.2 per cent of consumers making the switch.

Meanwhile, fibre-to-the-premises technology, rather than the much more prevalent fibre-to-the-cabinet rollout, had been made available to just 2 per cent of UK households as of June 2011. That's compared with 34 per cent in Sweden, 22 per cent in Russia and 21 per cent in France, Ofcom said.

The report, which looked at the online habits of 17 countries, is the sixth such annual study to be published by the communications watchdog. It found that eight in 10, or 79 per cent, of UK internet users had ordered goods or services online in 2010.

In contrast, just 27 per cent of Italian consumers had done their shopping via the internet.

Apparently the UK is made up of a nation of people that lurk on retail sites. In January this year, the population spent an average of 84 minutes browsing the online aisles of shopping websites.

Blighty folk also own more smartphones than any of the other Europeans surveyed by Ofcom. Take-up of the miniature fondleslabs nearly doubled between February 2010 and August 2011. Smartphone ownership in the UK jumped from 24 per cent to 46 per cent, the report added.

And, seeing as the nation spends so much time shopping online, it was hardly surprising that Ofcom noted that advertising spend on the interwebs was almost the same as the amount of cash splashed on TV ads.

UK online advertising spend in 2010 hit £4.1bn, said the watchdog.

“Across the globe people are embracing e-commerce and social media with enthusiasm. Our research shows that the UK communications market is performing well with prices, the range of services and innovation standing up well against international benchmarks," said Ofcom boss Ed Richards.

It would also appear that there is less concern among UK consumers than any other country surveyed by Ofcom when it comes to personal privacy online as well as the handling of data by social networks.

"Over 60 per cent of UK consumers have concerns about their personal privacy online and how their personal data are used by social networking websites," the report said.

"Just under seven in ten consumers (69 per cent) in the UK with a social networking profile page agreed with the statement: 'I have concerns about how my personal data is being used by social networking sites'; this is lower than any of the other countries surveyed." ®

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