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DMA launches e-commerce scheme to protect consumers

DMA launches e-commerce scheme to protect consumers

A new scheme to protect Internet shoppers from unfair practices by e-commerce sites has been launched by the Direct Marketing Association.

The WebTraderUK scheme originally known as the Which? WebTrader scheme has been picked up again after it was discontinued in January 2003 because it cost a significant amount of money, which was needed elsewhere.

Robert Dirskovski, head of interactive media at the DMA, called the scheme a "badge of honour" for the e-commerce industry, which would increase consumer confidence in online shopping by showing that those registered with the scheme adhere to a rigorous code of practice.

"WebTraderUK also helps traders by providing a nationally recognised brand. This particularly helps SMEs, which are often start-ups with little background in consumer legislative issues," Dirskovski said.

The core of the scheme is the WebTraderUK code of practice, with which online traders must comply. The code is an evolving document and will be amended as new legislation is introduced or best practice is developed by industry.

Compliance is monitored by the Direct Marketing Authority, which is part of DMA, using mystery shopping exercises, random interrogation of subscribers' websites, monitoring of complaints and customer feedback mechanisms.

The Direct Marketing Authority is an independent body established by the DMA in 1997 to ensure the direct marketing industry continues to maintain and continually raise its standards.

The authority investigates any complaints made by consumers and other businesses against DMA member companies to decide if there has been any breach of the DMA code of practice, and makes adjudication as appropriate.

Helping to administer the scheme will be the experienced members of the National Newspapers Mail Order Protection Scheme (MOPS), which protects consumers responding to newspaper advertisements.

The scheme has been endorsed by TrustUK, the industry self-regulatory body developed by Which? and the Alliance for Electronic Business, supported by the government, which aims to develop consumer confidence in online trading.

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