LONDON - Research firm Mintel reports that UK consumers now lead Europe in terms of online shopping expenditure, spending an aggregated €9.79 billion ($12.3bn; £6.69bn) in 2005. thereby besting former league leader Germany's €9.71bn.

Total European internet sales rose by 51% to €40.2bn last year - a figure Mintel expects to triple by 2010. Says senior retail analyst Neil Mason: "[We are] confident that online sales of goods will grow strongly over the next few years as this channel matures."

There is plenty of room for growth in online spending, reports the researcher, with internet-transactions currently comprising only 2% of total European retail sales.