Consumers Don't Trust E-Commerce Sites: Report

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E-commerce sites apparently rank right up there with lawyers and journalists when it comes to consumer trust.


Only 29 percent of users say they trust Web sites that sell products or services, according to a report published yesterday by Consumer WebWatch, a grant-funded project of Consumers Union, the non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine and ConsumerReports.org. Also, just 33 percent of consumers say they trust Web sites giving advice about purchases, the report said.


"E-commerce sites overall draw dismal ratings, even among those who use them," said an executive summary of the report.


For comparison, 58 percent of those surveyed said they trust newspapers and television news, and 47 percent said they trust the federal government at least most of the time.


What's more, 68 percent said they trust small businesses; 58 percent trust newspapers and television news; and 55 percent said they trust financial companies such as banks, insurance companies and stockbrokers. Fifty four percent trust charities and other nonprofit organizations.


"The remarkably low trust ratings for Web sites suggest the sites have much work to do if consumers are going to rely on these sites as they already do on these other types of organizations," said the report.


In other findings, AOL and MSN subscribers are slightly more distrusting of e-commerce sites than users of other ISPs, the report said.


For example, 67 percent of AOL subscribers expressed low levels of trust in e-commerce sites, while a 71 percent of MSN users express such a low level. Meanwhile, 52 percent of AT&T subscribers and 60 percent of EarthLink subscribers expressed low levels of trust.


The report also claimed that consumers have strong opinions about what information Web sites should provide on practices and policies, but offered no numbers to support the claim.


The report said that 57 percent of those surveyed said they have read at least most of the policies about credit card use on the sites they visit. Thirty five percent of those surveyed reported reading the privacy policies on most sites and 22 percent reported reading "About Us" Web pages.


According to WebWatch, the survey results were based on interviews with 1,500 Internet users age 18 and older, conducted for Consumer WebWatch by Princeton Survey Research Associates. The Internet users were identified from among 2,542 adults interviewed for the survey by telephone from December 20, 2001, to January 7, 2002, WebWatch said.


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