Customers can find better deals by effective searching

Britain's consumer affairs watchdog said on Tuesday it would develop a plan over the next six months to help consumers and businesses get more out of the UK's 21.4 billion pound ($42.4 billion) online shopping market.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said shoppers could find better deals by searching more effectively; that many could do more to protect themselves online; and that most do not know they have cancellation rights when shopping on the Internet.

In a report on Internet shopping, the OFT also said that many businesses do not know their obligations under the Distance Selling Regulations (DSRs), which provide additional protection for shoppers when buying online, and that some could do more to address consumers' concerns about privacy and security.

"The Internet has added a welcome new dimension to competition in the economy, as well as providing convenience for shoppers and new opportunities to compare prices and find new products," OFT Chief Executive John Fingleton said in a statement.

"However, if online shopping is to continue to flourish, the awareness and the protection of consumers' rights needs to improve. The OFT is committed to working with businesses, consumer groups and other bodies to make sure that consumers can shop with confidence online."

Last year, over 20 million Britons shopped online, with nearly a third of them spending over 1,000 pounds, the OFT said.

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